Travels Through Islam: Memory of the Maldives

Chiara Goia for TIME
Chiara Goia for TIME
A man stands at the end of a seawall on Dhiggaru island, Meemu atoll. March 2009.

This is the third installment in a five-part series from TIME International’s annual Summer Journey issue, Travels Through Islam: Discovering a world of change and challenge in the footsteps of the 14th century explorer Ibn Battuta.

The Maldives are becoming a memory—a place in continuous transformation into its own duality: a touristic, heavenly escape from usual life and a fervent Islamic country with an interesting political and social history.

Maldives is a nation of 1192 islands stretched over 600 miles in the western part of the Indian Ocean. Having the lowest elevation of any other country in the world, the islands are threatened by the rising sea levels caused by global warming. Some scientists claim it will be one of the first places in the world to disappear.

I have been photographing in the Maldives since 2009, documenting the local life and showing its contradictions as well as its preciousness and vulnerability. These qualities don’t lie exclusively on the environment, but also on the culture and on its society: a community in a large scale or a microcosm made of thin balances.

My goal is to create an extended personal portrait of a country, which in the near future might not appear to our eyes the same way it does today.

Chiara Goia is an Italian documentary photographer based in India. A frequent contributor to TIME, her portraits of women living with the stygma of vitiligo have been featured on TIME.com.

In part one of the Summer Journey series, Dominic Nahr photographed Ibn Battuta’s path into sub-Saharan Africa. Part two featured Lynsey Addario’s photographs of romance and dating in Saudi Arabia. Check back tomorrow for part four of the series.

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