The Various Ethnic Groups of the Maldives


The Maldives is a small island country located in the Indian Ocean. It is home to a diverse population, comprised of many different ethnic groups. There are two main ethnic groups in the Maldives – the Indo-Aryans and the Sinhalese – as well as smaller groups such as the Arabs and the South Indians. All of these ethnic groups have contributed to the unique culture of the Maldives, making it a truly fascinating place to visit. In this blog post, we will explore the various ethnic groups of the Maldives and how they have shaped the culture of the country.


The South Asians

Ethnic groups in the Maldives include a mix of South Asian peoples. This includes individuals from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as those who are ethnically Malayali. These populations have a strong presence on the islands, especially in the cities and more populated areas. The South Asian population has been part of the Maldivian culture for centuries, and they bring with them an array of traditions and practices that are now integral to the nation’s collective identity.


The Arabs

One of the ethnic groups in the Maldives is Arabs, who have been present in the country since the 16th century. They make up a significant minority in the population, with many having strong cultural ties to their Arab heritage. In terms of culture and language, most Arabs in the Maldives speak either Urdu or Arabic. Islam is the predominant religion among Arabs in the Maldives, as it is in most of the country. While they may be a minority in the population, Arabs remain an important presence in the country and contribute to the country’s culture.


The Africans

Although the Maldives is primarily known for its South Asian culture and religions, it also has a strong African influence. Ethnic groups from Africa have been living in the Maldives for centuries, contributing to the country’s rich cultural heritage. These African ethnic groups include the Sinhalese, who arrived in the 10th century AD, and later other ethnic groups like the Sunnis. African cultural influences can still be seen today in the music, dance, and cuisine of the Maldives.


The Europeans

Among the ethnic groups in the Maldives, the Europeans form a small minority. European settlers arrived on the islands during the early 19th century, although the majority of them were traders or missionaries. The Portuguese had settled in the archipelago as early as 1558 and other Europeans followed, primarily British traders. The Europeans brought with them their own culture and traditions, blending them with the existing culture of the island nation. Today, most Europeans in the Maldives are expatriates from countries like Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France, who live in the country for business or tourism purposes.

Although they form a small percentage of the overall population of the Maldives, they bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge that has helped shape its rich cultural heritage. For example, the introduction of Catholicism by the Portuguese has led to an increase in religious tolerance in the Maldives over time. There is also evidence of influence from various European languages on the local dialects of Dhivehi spoken by Maldivians. Furthermore, traditional English cuisine is also becoming more popular in modern-day dining establishments across the archipelago. This unique fusion of different cultures has resulted in an eclectic mix of art, cuisine, music, and literature that is enjoyed by both locals and foreigners alike. From the Italians’ delightful pizzas to Swedish delicacies like herring salad, ethnic dishes from around Europe have found their place on menus all over the Maldives – further demonstrating the diverse ethnic influences present on these beautiful islands.


South Indians

The South Indian ethnic group makes up a significant portion of the population of the Maldives. These ethnic groups include people from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala who have migrated to the Maldives over centuries. They are predominantly Hindu and practice traditional Hindu customs and traditions. The South Indian culture has had an important influence on the culture of the Maldives, especially in terms of music, cuisine, and other elements. These South Indian ethnic groups also follow Sunni Islam and are known as Sunnis in the Maldives. Apart from these ethnic groups, there is a small minority of the population consisting of Sinhalese from Sri Lanka, Bengalis from Bangladesh, and Burmese from Myanmar. Each of these ethnicities brings its unique cultural traditions and practices to the country.

For example, the Sinhalese are believed to have introduced Buddhist teachings to the Maldives while the Burmese are said to have contributed greatly to the martial arts found in the country today. Other small ethnic minorities living in the Maldives include Filipinos, Malaysians, Europeans, Americans, Africans, and Chinese. Despite their small numbers compared to other ethnicities, each community contributes significantly to the cultural landscape of the Maldives. As such, each ethnic group is appreciated for its unique presence and plays an important role in creating the richly diverse environment that exists today.



The Sinhalese are another of the many ethnic groups in the Maldives. They are an ethnic group from Sri Lanka and speak Sinhala, a language of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family. They are generally identified as a cultural rather than a religious group, though some practice Buddhism and Hinduism. Sinhalese migrants form a significant portion of the population of the Maldives, and they often live in cities and towns near the shore. In addition to the Sinhalese, other ethnic groups in the Maldives include indigenous Dhivehi people, Indian workers, Pakistanis, Persians, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans.


Sunni Islam

One of the dominant religions in the Maldives is Sunni Islam. Over 99% of the ethnic groups in the Maldives adhere to this religion, with most of them practicing it in its traditional form. This form of Islam has been around in the region since the 10th century and has been a major influence on the culture, language, and lifestyles of the people in the Maldives. Despite the lack of a formal system of Islamic education, Islam is still an integral part of everyday life in the islands, from prayer rituals to dietary regulations.