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250671.  Mon Dec 31, 2007 4:35 am Reply with quote

I thought a quick word might be in order about the Maldives, which certainly is a QI country. A group of islands off the southern tip of India it is mostly known for it's luxury tourist islands (which are very good), but it is full of unusual points of interest:

The country is about 99.6% ocean, with the 0.4% land being made up of around than 1,200 islands. No one can agree how many exactly.

The Capital city is Male (pronounced Maa-lay), which I believe is the smallest Capital in the world (unless anyone knows otherwise?), with 65,000 - 100,000 inhabitants depending on whether you count long term residents only or include short stayers as well. As it is on an island of about 2km by 1km there is no room for expansion! A bit of space has been gained from the sea, but plans are afoot to link several islands to let the Capital grow.

The highest point above sea level is about 3 metres, so the country is massively at risk from the effects of global warming, and therefore in the vangaurd of efforts to get global agreements for reduction of emissions.

Since it is a Muslim country alcohol is forbidden - except on the resort islands, where Indian and Sri Lankan staff are employed to handle the alcohol.

250740.  Mon Dec 31, 2007 8:51 am Reply with quote

Ooh, now missus, I don't think they can claim smallest population for a capital city, there must be at least 30 odd other capital cities with lower populations.

If we're talking about "official capitals by default" then Adamstown is probably the smallest, having a population of 50. If you discount the Vatican, some might say Yaren in Nauru, but it's not officially a capital city. Since Barbuda joined Antigua, Codrington is also out of the equasion, so that possibly leaves San Marino as the regognised Capital city with the lowest population (less than 30k at the last count).

250747.  Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:06 am Reply with quote

The population of the whole country is around 30,000, and the published figure for Città di San Marino is 4,493 (Wiki).

Plymouth, Montserrat has a population of 0. The city was abandoned in 1997 and the island's government resides in the village of Brades (population around 1,000), but Plymouth is still the official capital.

250748.  Mon Dec 31, 2007 9:10 am Reply with quote

Well good lord, that'll teach me to wander in blithely in a "new to all of this lets try to write something not too contentious" sort of a way. I stand severally corrected. Thought briefly of trying the "i was talking about the area" tack, but then the Vatican has me straight away on that too. my oh my...

250790.  Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:49 am Reply with quote

Welcome to the QI forums, ivor!

As you've already discovered, around here there's always some awkward sod who will find something to argue with however uncontentious the topic! It's very often me, which says something or another ...

Is The Maldives, as Tuvalu is, preparing itself for the day when the islands have to be abandoned and the country will be forced to become a virtual nation?

One thing I know about the Maldives is that their language (Divehi) is written in a script called Thaana, which runs from right to left and is used for no other language. This one will test your computer - if you can see it then you are in the minority:

ދިވެހިރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމުހޫރިއްޔާ

Since many readers probably can't, here is the same text as a graphic (it is the Divehi for "Republic of The Maldives").

250813.  Mon Dec 31, 2007 12:29 pm Reply with quote

Blah, welcome Ivor, we wouldn't have found out the details we did until you posted, so yuo're actually doing the right thing because QI is all abuot the klaxons as well as the applause cos I got klaxoned on San Marino as well :)

I don't have time to look up now as I'm just finishing off and going off on me travels back home, but a friend of mine who just honeymooned in the Maldives told me they were looking to connect some islands to create a more substantial city of Male, so it looks like they're thinking ahead.

251006.  Tue Jan 01, 2008 8:17 am Reply with quote

Hi guys, thanks for your welcomes. It's all a useful heads up and i shall be attempting to think just that bit more carefully from here on out, which can't do too much harm!!!

Suze - no, my tired old mac laptop can't see your script - i'll try it on a different machine later. i do recognise the graphic, and you're right about Divehi. According to Lonely Planet the word Atoll derives from the Maldivian word Atolu, which i assume is Divehi. As a traveller to the Maldives you don't generally get to mix with the locals, as you need a special visa to leave the "Tourist zones" ie the resorts, presumably to keep the small inhabited islands from being swamped. Consequently the only place you see the script is on the capital Male, which is the exception to this rule. did i mention that it's not even nearly the smallest capital in the world?

I don't believe they're yet preparing for the abandonment or disappearance of the country, my guess would be that they will look first at what they can do in the medium term. They seem to be a really pragmatic and wise people - the planning that went into the creation of their tourist industry is amazing - lots of sustainable and renewable, and leading edge technologies. The island we visit was the first one to become a resort, from memory around mid 70s. The general manager is one of the most erudite people i've ever met.

Hi CB27, is there a MHz connotation in your moniker? Your friend is exactly right. Male is on one of the bigger islands, but it's really in a group of largish islands. There's a map at the bottom of the page at I think the white is land and the green is reefs. So you can see Male (yellow, at the bottom) is near the quite large island which houses the airport. Maybe that's what they're thinking. Don't know how they would go about building a causeway though. Maybe they wouldn't - most travel is by boat anyway, for obvious reasons

Further reading: theres lots of info about their philosophy of tourism on this document; can't organise a link so you need to Google "RLagiewskiConfProc10-2006.pdf" then choose "A Bipolar view..."[url][/url]

251040.  Tue Jan 01, 2008 9:20 am Reply with quote

Thanks ivor.

I wasn't expecting many people to be able to see the Thaana script - it requires both an OS which supports it (Windows XP and all versions of MacOS X do, so that's no longer a major issue) and a Thaana font, which isn't a thing that just everyone has.

Most now agree that the word atoll comes to us from Divehi, probably ultimately of Sanskrit origin. The first edition of the OED (and hence the various online dictionaries which are shameless copies thereof) went for Malayalam, apparently because Charles Darwin told one of the editors that it was so. (Malayalam is the main language of Lakshadweep, a group of islands not very far from The Maldives, so borrowing either way is perfectly plausible.)

In Malé at least (probably less so in those places where tourists are not permitted to go), is Divehi rapidly losing ground to English as the language of choice?

Thanks for the info on sustainability - the Maldivians seem rather more optimistic about the future than do the Tuvaluans. While the government of Tuvalu always denies it, it's often reported that there are contingency arrangements for the relocation of the entire population to New Zealand or Fiji.

251071.  Tue Jan 01, 2008 10:21 am Reply with quote

Don't really know about Divehi in Malé i've only spent a day there, but don't recall hearing much English, which has to be a good sign i guess...

251097.  Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:06 am Reply with quote

btw suze, immense respect for having a Thaana font. don't suppose many have that at all.

251101.  Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:16 am Reply with quote

Thanks ivor!

Partly for professional reasons (until last summer I was a university Linguistics lecturer) and partly out of personal interest, I've made it my business to have a font for just about every writing system in use in the modern world.

I'm missing one that works properly for Mongolian (which is written vertically, a thing with which word processors have severe problems) - although it's not crucial because Mongolian is more often written in the Cyrillic alphabet these days. I think that's the only omission among writing systems still in regular use though.

251106.  Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:25 am Reply with quote

Full on! i'll keep my eyes peeled, but breath holding not in order...

251390.  Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:03 am Reply with quote

My computer seems to have a Thaana font, and I have no professional excuse. I didn't even know I had it until I saw this thread.

251469.  Wed Jan 02, 2008 12:12 pm Reply with quote

Mine too. I assumed it was because I have a package called "101 Languages of the World" - but I find it's not installed at the moment.


251517.  Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:57 pm Reply with quote

Most mysterious. I think i'm beginning to get font envy... Even went and checked on my desktop and much newer mac, but no joy.

i'm just going to assume that you're all very sophisticated people.

just one little Maldives item, since that IS what i'm supposed to be writing about: As touched on elsewhere, the Maldivian government is very keen to do tourism responsibly, in a sustainable fashion, and friendly to the enviroment of the country, hence the planning bye law that the tallest building on an island must be no higher than the tallest palm tree. which i rather like! don't know what happens if it falls down though...


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