Situated on historical maritime routes, Maldives became inhabited by diverse ethnic groups including Sinhalese speakers from Sri Lanka, Arabs, Africans, and Tamils and Malayali from Kerala in India. Maldivian, or Dhivehi, belongs to the Indo-Aryan language group. It is the official language of the Maldives and also nearly 10,000 people from the island of Minicoy, which is to the north of the Maldives. The language has adopted some foreign words over time from languages such as Hindi, Arabic, Sinhala and English. Until the 1960s, Dhivehi was the medium of all education but English is now increasingly used in schools and in commerce. Despite this, Dhivehi is flourishing.
Maldivians converted to Islam by the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and article two of the revised Constitution states that the republic is ‘based on the principles of Islam’. 100% of the population are practising Sunni Muslims. However, this does not mean that non-Muslim tourists are excluded from visiting the Maldives. There are prayers five times a day at the mosques in Malé and other inhabited islands.