The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago that sits in the Arabia Sea of the Indian Ocean, about 700 kilometers away from the mainland of Asia. The island nation is settled on the vast submarine mountain range of Chagos-Laccadive Ridge. With its ground-level elevation averaging at 1.5 meters above sea level, Maldives is known to be the world’s lowest-lying country.
During the 2nd century AD, Maldives was well-known for its cowry shells that were used as international currency at the time. In fact, the Arabs dubbed the island nation as the “Money Isles”.
At present, the cowry shell is used as the symbol of the Maldives Monetary Authority, the institution responsible for issuing the Maldivian rufiyaa. The country was also known for its coir rope, ambergris, dried tuna fish, and coco de mer that were exported to Sri Lanka and other neighboring harbors.
The tourism industry is the major contributor to the country’s revenue, accounting for 28% of the nation’s GDP and over 60% of foreign exchange income. In 1989, Maldives initiated an economic reform program starting with its import quotas. Fishing also plays an important role in the Maldivian economy.
In December 2004, a tsunami had damaged about $400 million of the country’s properties. Consequently, its GDP plunged by about 3.6% in the next year. Through its post-tsunami restoration efforts including the development of new resorts, the Maldivian economy has immediately recovered with an increase of 18% in 2006. Tourism, along with traditional cottage industries that include mat weaving, handicraft, lacquer, and coir ropes, has boosted the country’s economy.
The Maldives rufiyaa is the national currency of the Maldives. Prior to the establishment of the Maldives Monetary Authority in 1981, the Maldivian government was in charge of issuing banknotes. In 1947, it released banknotes designed by Sayyid Saeed and with calligraphy designs of Tabah Ali Fulu.
In 1983, the Maldives Monetary Authority released a new set of banknotes bearing images of cowrie shells, coconuts, and a sailing Dhivehi odi. Another family of paper bills was issued in 1990, having an identical concept as the preceding issues but with different watermark designs. The new series of Maldivian rufiyaa banknotes were printed on Safeguard polymer substrate by De La Rue. These banknotes are called “Randhihafafeh” and carry the designs of Abdullah Nashaath. These paper bills are equipped with embossed symbols that aid sight-impaired bearers differentiate the notes.