The Islamic Republic of Iran is located in Western Asia and is a country of deserts and rainforests. The Republic of Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean and is an island country. While these nations have different histories, speak different languages, observe different forms of Islam, and basically have different cultural psyches, in certain cultural aspects their realities overlap. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast the Iranian and the Maldivian cultures. To achieve the purpose, the paper will first discuss the differences between the two cultures and then examine the similarities between them. The essay will conclude with the summary of what has been discussed.
The culture of Iran and the culture of the Maldive Islands have a lot of differences. First of all, the languages differ. Iranian population speaks Persian, which is the official language of the country. Alongside Persian, numerous ethnic and religious minorities speak a range of their own dialects and languages, including the Azerbaijani language, the Turkic dialects, Kurdish, Lurish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Armenian, etc. Persian belongs to the Indo-European languages; it represents the Indo-Iranian branch and is written in Arabic script (Iran, 2013). By contrast, the official language of the Maldive Islands is Dhivehi. This language belongs to Indo-Aryan languages and is written in the Thaana script. Additionally, in the Maldives English schools are common where children are taught in English (Maldives, 2013).
Secondly, the religious affiliations differ. While the Maldivians are Sunni Muslims, the Iranian population are Shia Muslims (Iran, 2013). The major difference between the two forms of Islam lies in their historic roots. Shia support the line of imams and other religious leaders that, as they believe, stem from the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunni support the idea that religious leaders should be elected; they have their own venerated leaders. Shia do not recognize the Sunnah and the hadith literature, i.e. the one recorded by companions of the Prophet. There are differences in fasting, prayers, etc. Moreover, the Maldivians observe the liberal form of Islam, which means that the society does not have strict segregation laws or a rigorous dress code, etc (Masters, 2009). On the contrary, in Iran the religious customs are observed with rigour and there is even moral police.
Based on this, the cultures have different dress codes for females, which is the third difference. In Iran women are required to wear long manteaux and hijab. On the contrary, in the Maldive Islands only a half of all women wear headscarves (Masters, 2009).
Next, the food differs a lot. The Maldivians eat a lot of fish and have basically a very simple cuisine. The fruit they eat are those that grow on the islands, including coconuts, papayas, mangoes, and pineapples. They do eat many vegetables (Maldives, 2013). On the contrary, Iranians eat a lot of vegetables, which form the basis of their meals (e.g. aubergines, horse radish, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, etc). Unlike in the Maldives, the food is central to the Iranian culture and traditional recipes are rather elaborate and complicated. Sofia Koutlaki, the author of the book “Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran’s Culture and Customs”, notes that food in Iran is “invested with spiritual meaning” and “the preparation and cooking of food is a prime expression of a woman’s loving care” (Koutlaki, 2010: 141). Besides, the Persian cuisine is not spicy and hot. By contrast, the cuisine of the Maldivians is “often hot and spicy” (Masters, 2009: 39).
Finally, one more important difference is that of gender relationships. In Maldives, the matriarchal tradition is strong, rooted in the connections with the Dravidian culture. Women reportedly have a significant impact on politics, social life, and economic affairs. They are widely employed in education, tourism, health and welfare, etc (Maldives, 2013). By contrast, Iranians are a strongly patriarchal society, where the segregation of sexes and discrimination of women’s rights in employment, politics, social life, etc, are observed. Interestingly, the Maldivian society witness one of the highest divorce rates in the world: by the age of thirty, it is not unlikely for woman to be in the fourth marriage. On the contrary, the divorce rate in Iran is very low (around 10 per cent) (Iran, 2013). Besides, Maldivians live in nuclear families while Iranians often live as extended families.
Despite a multitude of differences, there exist noticeable similarities between the cultures. Both Iranians and Maldivians confess Islam. Their law, customs, and holidays are all related to Islam. Quran is the holy book and the basic book in education. Based on the role of a single religion in social life, the communities are close-knit and generally devoid of controversies. Further, both cultures cultivate respect to elders. People are tied by strong loyalties to the members of the extended family. Typically, marriages occur between Muslims and women are expected to be virgin in both cultures. In both societies, polygamy is generally uncommon despite the fact that the Muslim law allows having up to four wives. Both national cuisines have rice as their basic element and do not allow pork. Meat is scarce in Iran and in the Maldives. In Iran, with its deserts, cattle are hard to breed. In the Maldives, too, meat is a luxury and is eaten only on special occasions. Besides, in the Maldives, there are no cows (Maldives, 2013). Both cuisine cultures do not have alcohol beverages. Both nationalities like drinking black tea. Finally, Iranians and Maldivians have a developed culture of making carpets. These, however, differ by the nature of the fabric and the technique.
Despite the fact that Iranians and Maldivians have different cultures and speak different languages, certain similarities may be found. These are largely based on the fact that both nations confess Islam. Besides, similarities in cuisine, marriage customs, family relations, and arts have been identified.
- Koutlaki, S 2010, Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran’s Culture and Customs, Intercultural
- Maldives 2013, Countries and Their Cultures, viewed 10 November 2013, http://www.everyculture.com/Ja-Ma/Maldives.html.
- Iran 2013, Countries and Their Cultures, viewed 10 November 2013, http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Iran.html.