A map of the MaldivesThe Maldives are a double chain of 1192 coral islands. They are spread over a distance of 885 kilometres (550 miles) north to south. Many of the islands are grouped rings, called atolls. Just 200 of them are inhabited. The location of the Maldives on the Equator gives them a tropical climate with hot, breezy weather all year round and a stormy monsoon season between June and August. Fringed by white sandy beaches and shallow seas, the Maldives are among the lowest-lying islands in the world. Rising sea levels threaten to submerge them completely by the end of the century.
Just under a third of the population of 395,000 lives on the 1.6-kilometre-long (1-mile) island of Malé, making it one of the most densely populated islands on Earth. Nearly everyone in the Maldives is Muslim, and speaks Dhivehi.
In 2009, the Maldivian government, led by President Mohamed Nasheed, held a cabinet meeting underwater to raise awareness of the Maldives’ threat from rising sea levels. The ministers wore diving equipment and used hand signals to communicate.
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