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With photographers Mohamed Amin and Duncan Willetts
(Nairobi: Camerapix Publishers International, 1992); large format, hdbk., pp.191

Maldives consists of some 2000 islands – no one knows exactly how many – scattered across the Equator in the Indian Ocean. For many, it has become the classic fantasy of a tropical island paradise: palm-fringed white beaches, turquoise lagoons, crystal-clear warm waters, and coral reefs teeming with colourful marine life. For some, it is an ecological disaster in the making. Few of the islands are more than two kilometres wide or higher than two metres. They are so fragile that with the present rate of global warming they could all disappear beneath the waves within fifty years.

But there is much more to the Maldives. Mysterious ruins of pyramids amongst palm trees on islands bordering the Equator suggest that its unique civilization has very ancient roots. Strategically placed in the middle of the Indian Ocean, its hospitable people reflect past sailing links with Sri Lanka, India, Arabia and Africa. They have their own language and culture, a relaxed form of Islam, and the highest divorce rate in the world. Until recently, it was a matrilineal society and women still run most of the everyday affairs on land while their men take to the sea.

With photographers Mohamed Amin and Duncan Willetts, Peter Marshall sailed down the Maldivian archipelago, landing at islands usually out of bounds to visitors. He explored the intriguing archaeological remains and dug through the country’s archives. He met local villagers and island chiefs, government officials, boat builders, fishermen and the greatest variety of marine life in the world. The result is a visually stunning and highly informative account of a remote people and a unique island culture which are only just beginning to be touched by the 21st century.

Peter Marshall also wrote the text for the Spectrum Guide to Maldives(Nairobi: Camerapix Publishers International, 1993)