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More info: The Maldives is a nation consisting of 26 natural atolls, comprising 1192 islands Since very ancient times, the Maldives were ruled by kings (Radun) and occasionally queens (Ranin). Historically Maldives has had a strategic importance because of its location on the major marine routes of the Indian Ocean. Maldives' nearest neighbors are Sri Lanka and India, both of which have had cultural and economic ties with Maldives for centuries. The Maldives provided the main source of cowrie shells, then used as a currency throughout Asia and parts of the East African coast.