The Maldivian identity is a blend of cultures, reflecting the peoples who settled on the islands, reinforced by religion and language. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India, Arabia, and other regions of Southeast Asia. Evident is a huge influence of South, South West African and Asian cultures in the Maldives.
Addu society, as in the rest of Maldives, was distinguished by strong social divisions. Traditionally, the upper classes—with names like Don Seedi, Don Kaloa, Fulhu, Manik, and Didi—were close friends and relatives of the sultan and his royal family. Yet, even among these families, there were marked differences. Well into the 20th century, HCP Bell, a well known explorer, noted that “a Didi marrying a Maniku lady raises her to his own rank; but, strictly speaking, the children of a Maniku father and Didi mother are not entitled to the appellation Didi”.
Years ago, it was unacceptable to eat with a member of an inferior class, and people of a lower class mixing with a superior only sat on a low stool. Now these distinctions are not acceptable in the society. Indeed, nowadays the terms Maniku and Didi are sometimes used as nicknames. Today, social rank is based more on merit than family linage.
The number of islands a person leases, or the number of boats they own, was also crucial to their social standing during the sultanates’ era. The boat owner took about half the day’s catch, while the skipper (keyolhu) earned about one-fifth. The rest was divided equally among the fishermen. As the fishermen’s lives and the well-being of the community depended upon the skill of the boat builders (Maavadi meehaa), they were highly respected craftsmen in the islands. The medicine men (Hakeem) stood on the same social rung. Skilled tradesmen, like blacksmiths and goldsmiths, also commanded a great deal of respect. At the bottom of the social heap was the toddy-tapper (Raaveria) who looked after the coconuts and tapped sap for toddy and syrup.
The sharp division of labor not only reflects the exigencies of island life, but the injunctions of traditional Islam. Yet despite the clear divisions between the classes, there was no poverty. The island community and the extended family act as a safety net for its members. No one sleeps in the streets, or goes to bed hungry. In this sense, being a small atoll in a small nation has its blessings, for everyone knows each other and is willing to lend a hand. Alms-giving remains one of the fundamental tenets of Islam, and so is in the atoll society.
The people of the Addu City are unique in the Maldives, not only because they speak in an entirely different dilect, but also because of their educational and intellectual background derived from their ancestors. It is a small, kindred society unified by a common history, language, and the Islamic faith.
Adduans have been able to blend tradition and modernity. All Adduans have open access to primary and secondary education. Adduans also play a significant role in the economic life of the Maldives, which is mainly based in the capital island of Malé.
Adduans are a friendly, hospitable and peace loving people, at the same time reserved and in control of their emotions. In Addu old customs and Islamic traditions are respected, while allowing the necessary changes in lifestyle to be compatible with modern development.
The Adduans are dedicated to improving the life of the people on the islands of Addu City. Young people are encouraged to strive for higher education. When children finish the secondary education in the atoll, they are sent to Malé or overseas for higher studies to make them professionals in their desired fields. After completing their studies in Male’ or abroad, many are compelled to stay in Malé due to lack of job opportunities in their hometown.