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The Maldives Unlike You’ve Ever Seen It Before: Local Style


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Bunny Brodsky



The Maldives, with its pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and luxury resorts, is a dream destination for many travelers. But beyond the popular tourist spots lies a hidden gem – the local life of the Maldives. In this article, we will take you on a journey to explore the Maldives unlike you’ve ever seen it before, through the lens of local style.


The Maldives, consisting of 26 atolls and over 1,000 coral islands, has a rich cultural heritage that is deeply intertwined with its natural surroundings. While the luxurious resorts offer world-class amenities and breathtaking views, it is the local life that truly captures the essence of the Maldivian experience. By immersing yourself in the local culture, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Maldives’ traditions, cuisine, crafts, festivals, and more.


From savoring traditional Maldivian dishes to exploring local markets, bazaars, and lively festivals, you can get a taste of the authentic Maldivian way of life. Engaging in local activities and sports, such as traditional fishing or a game of “Baibala”, allows you to connect with the locals and embrace their customs. Additionally, encountering the diverse wildlife of the Maldives, both on land and underwater, is an unforgettable experience that showcases the natural beauty of this archipelago.


By participating in sustainable tourism initiatives, such as supporting local artisans and choosing eco-friendly accommodations, you can contribute to the preservation of the Maldives’ unique environment. Moreover, witnessing traditional Maldivian music and dance performances will take you on a cultural journey that will leave you mesmerized.


So, if you’re ready to go beyond the postcard-perfect scenes and dive into the heart of the Maldives, join us as we delve into the fascinating world of the Maldives’ local style.


Exploring the Local Life in the Maldives

When it comes to exploring the local life in the Maldives, there are endless opportunities that will allow you to interact with the friendly locals and experience their way of life.


One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture is through the culinary delights of the Maldives. Traditional Maldivian cuisine is a fusion of flavors influenced by neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka and India. Indulge in dishes like “Garudhiya” – a flavorful fish soup, “Hedhikaa” – a variety of delicious snacks, and “Mas Huni” – a combination of shredded tuna, coconut, and spices. You can find these delicacies in local eateries and even participate in cooking classes to learn how to prepare them yourself.


Aside from the vibrant flavors of the cuisine, the Maldives is also known for its rich tradition of craftsmanship. Visit local craft workshops and witness the skillful artisans create intricate lacquerware, woven mats, and handmade jewelry. The craftsmanship is a testament to the Maldivian heritage and offers visitors a chance to take home a unique and authentic piece of the islands.


No visit to the Maldives would be complete without experiencing the vibrant festivals and celebrations that showcase the local customs and traditions. The Maldives celebrates various festivals throughout the year, such as Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, and the annual Traditional Maldivian Festival. These celebrations are marked with colorful parades, traditional dances, and music performances, providing a glimpse into the cultural tapestry of the Maldives.


Another aspect of local life in the Maldives is sustainable tourism. The archipelago is at the forefront of eco-friendly initiatives aimed at preserving its pristine environment. Engage in activities like coral reef conservation, marine life monitoring, or even stay at eco-resorts that prioritize sustainability. By participating in these initiatives, you not only contribute to preserving the natural wonders of the Maldives but also gain a deeper connection to the local environment.


If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, try your hand at local activities and sports. “Baibala,” a traditional Maldivian game played with coconuts, or “Dhivehi Badi”, a style of wrestling, are just a few examples that will give you a taste of the local sports scene. These activities offer a unique opportunity to bond with the locals and experience their competitive spirit.


Exploring the local life in the Maldives is not limited to land. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and witness the incredible marine life that surrounds the islands. Swim alongside colorful coral reefs, spot majestic manta rays, or take a boat ride to observe playful dolphins. The Maldives’ abundant marine biodiversity offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for nature enthusiasts.


Whether you’re observing the intricate crafts, indulging in mouth-watering cuisine, partaking in local festivities, or immersing yourself in the marine wonders, exploring the local life in the Maldives will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for this enchanting paradise.


Traditional Maldivian Cuisine

No exploration of the local life in the Maldives would be complete without delving into the culinary delights that are unique to this archipelago. Traditional Maldivian cuisine is a reflection of the region’s rich cultural heritage and its close proximity to India and Sri Lanka, resulting in a diverse and flavorful gastronomic experience.


One of the highlights of Maldivian cuisine is its emphasis on fresh seafood. Being surrounded by the bountiful Indian Ocean, fish is a staple in most Maldivian dishes. One iconic dish is “Garudhiya”, a fragrant fish soup made by boiling the catch of the day along with spices like curry leaves, pandan leaves, and fenugreek. The flavorful broth is often enjoyed with steamed rice and accompanied by “Rihaakuru”, a thick fish paste.


For a quick snack or a light meal, make sure to try the assortment of “Hedhikaa” – traditional Maldivian snacks. These bite-sized treats are often made from ingredients like fish, coconut, and rice flour. From “Bajiyaa” (Samosa-like pastries stuffed with tuna or vegetables) to “Kulhi Boakiba” (fish cakes) and “Masroshi” (fish or vegetable filled pastries), these snacks are perfect for satisfying your cravings while exploring the Maldives.


If you’re looking for a heartier meal, “Mas Huni” is a must-try. It is a traditional breakfast dish made by mixing shredded smoked tuna with grated coconut, onions, chili, and a squeeze of lime. This flavorful combination is often enjoyed with “Roshi”, a flatbread similar to Indian chapati. The combination of savory tuna, sweet coconut, and tangy lime creates a unique and mouthwatering flavor profile.


Maldivians also have a penchant for curry. “Islander Chicken Curry” is a delicious dish made with tender chicken pieces cooked in a rich blend of spices like cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and cardamom. The result is a fragrant and flavorful curry that pairs perfectly with steamed rice.


Another popular Maldivian dish is “Huni Roshi”, a savory pancake made from a mixture of grated coconut, onions, and spices, cooked on a hot griddle. This versatile dish can be enjoyed on its own or paired with traditional side dishes like “Mashuni” (tuna, coconut, chili and onion mix) or “Bodibaiy” (banana fritters).


When it comes to beverages, “Raa” deserves a special mention. It is a traditional alcoholic beverage made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. Served fresh, it offers a unique taste and a refreshing tropical vibe.


Exploring the local Maldivian cuisine is not only a culinary adventure but also an opportunity to learn about the local culture and way of life. Whether you indulge in the aromatic flavors of the fish soup, bite into the crispy snacks, or savor the coconut-infused breakfast dishes, traditional Maldivian cuisine will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds and provide you with a deeper understanding of the Maldives’ culinary traditions.


Local Crafts and Artisans

The Maldives is not only renowned for its stunning natural beauty but also for its rich artistic heritage. Exploring the local crafts and interacting with skilled artisans is a fascinating way to immerse yourself in the cultural fabric of the Maldives.


One of the most iconic crafts in the Maldives is lacquerware, known as “Laajehun”. The art of lacquerware involves meticulously applying layers of natural lacquer onto wooden objects, such as boxes, trays, and decorative items. The lacquer is often mixed with powdered coral to create vibrant colors and unique patterns. Craftsmen carefully carve intricate designs into the lacquer, resulting in stunning pieces that reflect the skill and dedication of the artisans.


Woven mats, known as “Thundu Kunaa”, are also an integral part of Maldivian craftsmanship. These mats are traditionally made using the leaves of the local Hau tree. Skilled weavers intricately weave the leaves together to create beautiful patterns and designs. These mats are not only functional but also serve as decorative pieces that add a touch of traditional elegance to homes and resorts in the Maldives.


Another craft that showcases the creativity of Maldivian artisans is the art of making handmade jewelry. Craftsmen meticulously create necklaces, bracelets, and earrings using materials such as cowrie shells, coral, and colorful beads. Each piece is a work of art, reflecting the unique cultural heritage of the Maldives.


Participating in workshops and visiting craft studios offers a wonderful opportunity to observe these talented artisans at work. You can witness the meticulous process of creating lacquerware, try your hand at weaving a small mat, or even design your own customized piece of jewelry. These experiences not only allow you to connect with the local culture but also support the preservation of these traditional crafts.


Furthermore, modern Maldivian artists have also made a mark in the global art scene with their contemporary artwork. Many of them draw inspiration from the natural beauty of the Maldives, incorporating vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and marine motifs into their creations. Visiting local art galleries and exhibitions is a great way to appreciate the talent and creativity of these artists while acquiring a unique piece of artwork as a memento of your trip.


Exploring the local crafts and interacting with the skilled artisans in the Maldives is a rewarding experience. It allows you to gain insight into traditional artistic techniques, witness the creativity of the local craftsmen, and bring home unique souvenirs that represent the cultural heritage of the Maldives.


Traditional Festivals and Celebrations

The Maldives is not just a tropical paradise – it is also a land of vibrant festivals and celebrations. Immersing yourself in the local festivities is an incredible way to experience the rich cultural heritage and traditions of the Maldives.


One of the most important celebrations in the Maldives is Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. During this time, locals gather to attend special prayers at mosques and exchange heartfelt greetings. Families come together to share festive meals and indulge in sweet delicacies like “Bambukeyo”, a traditional Maldivian sweet made from flour, sugar, and coconut milk.


Another significant festival is the Traditional Maldivian Festival, held annually in Malé, the capital city. This three-day extravaganza showcases the essence of Maldivian culture with vibrant parades, traditional dances, and music performances. Colorful costumes, intricate headdresses, and rhythmic drumming create an enchanting atmosphere, captivating both locals and visitors alike.


Kuda Eid is a smaller but equally lively celebration that takes place in the Maldives. Also known as “Little Eid”, it marks the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. During Kuda Eid, communities come together to pray, exchange gifts, and enjoy festive meals. Traditional dances and music performances are also part of the celebrations, adding to the joyful atmosphere.


Local island festivals are also a delightful way to experience the authentic culture of the Maldives. Each inhabited island has its own unique festival, often centered around the island’s heritage and traditions. These festivals feature music, dance performances, traditional games, and traditional culinary delights, offering visitors a glimpse into the local way of life.


Another noteworthy celebration in the Maldives is “Bodu Eid”, which commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son. On this day, locals dress in traditional attire and gather for special prayers at mosques. Families come together to enjoy special meals, including traditional dishes like “Garudhiya” (fish soup) and “Dhunigis Riha” (smoked fish curry).


Participating in these traditional festivals and celebrations is not only an exciting cultural experience but also a chance to interact with the friendly locals. You can join in the festivities, savor traditional delicacies, and witness captivating performances that showcase the vibrancy and richness of the Maldivian culture.


It’s important to note that the dates of these celebrations may vary each year, so it’s always a good idea to check the local calendar or consult with locals to plan your visit accordingly. By timing your trip to coincide with these festivals, you can truly immerse yourself in the festive spirit and create unforgettable memories of your time in the Maldives.


Sustainable Tourism in the Maldives

The Maldives, with its fragile ecosystem and pristine natural beauty, has become a pioneer in the realm of sustainable tourism. Conscious of the need to protect its unique environment, the Maldives has implemented various initiatives to ensure that tourism activities are carried out in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner.


One of the key aspects of sustainable tourism in the Maldives is the emphasis on eco-friendly resorts. Many resorts have implemented green practices such as solar power, water conservation measures, and waste management systems to minimize their environmental impact. Staying at these eco-resorts allows visitors to enjoy luxurious accommodations while minimizing their carbon footprint.


The Maldives is renowned for its breathtaking coral reefs, which are home to a diverse range of marine life. To protect these fragile ecosystems, the Maldives has established a comprehensive coral reef conservation program. Visitors can participate in coral planting initiatives, underwater clean-up activities, and educational programs to learn about the importance of preserving these natural treasures.


In addition to coral reefs, the Maldives is also home to various marine creatures, including majestic manta rays and gentle whale sharks. Responsible tourism practices ensure that encounters with these creatures are conducted in a sustainable manner, respecting their natural behaviors and habitats. Visitors can engage in responsible snorkeling and diving practices, such as maintaining a safe distance from marine life and refraining from touching or feeding them.


Supporting local communities is another crucial aspect of sustainable tourism in the Maldives. Many resorts collaborate with local artisans, supporting their craftsmanship and providing a platform to showcase their products. By purchasing locally-made souvenirs and handicrafts, visitors contribute to the economic growth of local communities and help preserve traditional crafts.


Community-based tourism initiatives have also emerged in the Maldives, providing visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in local life and gain a deeper understanding of the Maldivian culture. Through activities such as homestays, cooking classes, and guided tours, visitors can learn about traditional customs, cuisine, and daily life from the local perspective.


Education plays a vital role in sustainable tourism. The Maldives has implemented educational programs for locals and visitors alike, raising awareness about the importance of conservation and sustainable practices. This includes educational tours, workshops, and interactive exhibits that highlight the fragile ecosystem and promote responsible behavior when exploring the natural wonders of the Maldives.


Sustainable tourism in the Maldives is not just about preserving the environment and supporting local communities—it is also about creating a meaningful and authentic experience for visitors. By engaging in responsible tourism practices and supporting eco-friendly initiatives, visitors can contribute to the long-term preservation of the Maldives’ natural beauty and cultural heritage.


Participating in Local Activities and Sports

When visiting the Maldives, it’s not just about enjoying the beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters. Engaging in local activities and sports is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and traditions of this exotic paradise.


One popular activity in the Maldives is traditional fishing. Join the locals on a fishing excursion and experience the thrill of catching your own dinner. Whether it’s a night fishing adventure or a day trip on a traditional “dhoni” (wooden boat), you can learn traditional fishing techniques and witness the stunning marine life beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean. End your fishing excursion with a delicious seafood feast prepared with your freshly caught fish.


If you’re looking for some competition, take part in “Baibala”, a traditional Maldivian game played with coconuts. Baibala involves throwing coconuts towards a target, similar to the way you would play horseshoes. Enjoy a friendly game with locals and engage in some light-hearted competition while embracing the island spirit.


Dhivehi Badi, a local style of wrestling, is another popular activity in the Maldives. Often practiced on sandy beaches or open fields, it showcases the strength and agility of the participants. Watch or even participate in a friendly match to experience the traditional sport firsthand and witness the skill and athleticism of the local athletes.


For water sports enthusiasts, the Maldives offers an array of thrilling activities. Try your hand at “Bodu Mas” (catamaran sailing) or “Fun Boarding” (similar to windsurfing). These water sports allow you to appreciate the beauty of the Maldivian waters while enjoying a thrilling adventure.


When visiting local islands, you can participate in traditional activities such as palm weaving and rope making. Accompanied by local craftsmen, learn the art of weaving coconut palm leaves or twisting coconut fibers to create various useful items such as baskets or ropes. These hands-on experiences provide insights into the traditional skills and crafts that have been passed down through generations.


For those seeking a more relaxed activity, consider joining a traditional Maldivian cooking class. Learn how to prepare mouthwatering local dishes like “Garudhiya” (fish soup), “Mas Riha” (fish curry), or “Hedhikaa” (traditional Maldivian snacks), under the guidance of expert Maldivian chefs. This culinary adventure allows you to discover the flavors and techniques of Maldivian cuisine, providing both an educational and delicious experience.


Participating in these local activities and sports not only allows you to connect with the friendly locals but also offers the chance to learn about their traditions, customs, and way of life. By immersing yourself in these authentic experiences, you can create lasting memories and gain a deeper appreciation for the Maldivian culture.


Encountering Maldivian Wildlife

The Maldives is not only a haven for beach lovers but also a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. Its diverse ecosystems, both underwater and on land, provide a home for a wide range of fascinating and unique animal species. From vibrant coral reefs to exotic bird species, encountering Maldivian wildlife is a truly unforgettable experience.


The Maldives is famous for its stunning coral reefs, often referred to as the “rainforests of the sea.” Snorkeling or diving in the crystal-clear waters allows you to explore an underwater world teeming with life. Marvel at the vibrant array of coral formations, which provide shelter to countless fish species, including colorful parrotfish, graceful angelfish, and playful clownfish. Keep an eye out for larger creatures, too, such as gentle giant manta rays and the mesmerizing whale sharks, the largest fish in the world.


Don’t miss the opportunity to embark on a memorable dolphin-watching excursion. The Maldives is home to several species of dolphins, including spinner dolphins famous for their acrobatic displays. Watch in awe as these intelligent creatures leap and spin through the waves, creating a spectacle that will leave you mesmerized.


For bird enthusiasts, the Maldives offers a chance to encounter a variety of avian species. Visit the bird-rich areas of wetlands and mangroves, where you may spot exquisite species such as the Maldivian Bulbul, White Tern, or the elusive Maldivian Plover. These beautiful birds provide a glimpse into the unique avifauna of the Maldives.


On land, you may come across the Maldivian flying fox, a large fruit bat endemic to the country. They can be seen roosting in trees during the day, and witness their impressive wingspan as they take flight at dusk. Keep your eyes peeled for other land-dwelling creatures such as geckos, skinks, and the Maldivian house crow that adds its unique charm to the local landscape.


In addition to the wildlife encounters, the Maldives is also committed to conservation efforts to protect its unique ecosystems. Many resorts and organizations offer educational programs and guided tours that focus on marine conservation and sustainable practices. Participating in these initiatives not only enables you to contribute to the preservation of Maldivian wildlife but also provides opportunities to learn about the fragile ecosystems and the importance of their preservation.


Exploring the vibrant marine life and encountering the unique wildlife of the Maldives is an extraordinary experience. Whether you are snorkeling among coral reefs, observing dolphins in their natural habitat, or spotting endemic bird species, encountering Maldivian wildlife offers a profound appreciation for the beauty and diversity of this extraordinary destination.


Exploring Local Markets and Bazaars

When visiting the Maldives, exploring the local markets and bazaars is a must-do activity to truly experience the authentic charm and vibrant culture of the islands. These bustling markets are a treasure trove of local goods, fresh produce, handicrafts, and a feast for the senses.


One of the popular marketplaces in the Maldives is the Malé Local Market, located in the capital city, Malé. Here, you can immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as locals gather to buy and sell a variety of goods. Explore the narrow alleys filled with stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, aromatic spices, and locally caught fish. Engage with the friendly vendors, witness their hustle and bustle, and observe the daily transactions that keep the local community running.


In addition to food items, the local markets offer a wide array of handicrafts and traditional souvenirs. Look out for intricately woven mats, lacquered wooden boxes, shell-based jewelry, colorful wraps, and garments made from locally sourced materials. These handmade items make for unique and meaningful keepsakes or gifts.


Don’t miss the chance to taste some of the Maldives’ most beloved snacks and street food offerings at the local markets. Indulge in “Hedhikaa,” an assortment of traditional Maldivian snacks, such as “Bajiyaa” (fish or vegetable-filled pastries), “Gulha” (fish or vegetable-filled balls), and “Kulhi Boakiba” (fish cakes). These flavorful treats are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and offer a delicious glimpse into the Maldivian culinary culture.


One unique aspect of the local markets is the opportunity to witness traditional craftsmanship firsthand. Many markets feature skilled artisans showcasing their talents, such as coir rope making, fiber weaving, wood carving, and pottery. Take a moment to observe their intricate work and appreciate the dedication and skill that goes into creating these handmade pieces.


Visiting the local markets is not just about shopping and food—it’s also a cultural experience. It provides an opportunity to mingle with locals, observe their daily lives, and gain insight into the vibrant community spirit of the Maldives. Locals are often proud to share stories about their traditions, culture, and heritage, creating opportunities for meaningful connections.


Whether you’re seeking unique souvenirs, eager to try local delicacies, or simply want to soak up the lively atmosphere, exploring the local markets and bazaars in the Maldives is an immersive and delightful experience. It allows you to discover the true essence of the Maldivian way of life and brings you closer to the heart and soul of this enchanting destination.


Traditional Maldivian Music and Dance

Traditional Maldivian music and dance play a significant role in the cultural fabric of the Maldives. Rooted in the history and traditions of the islands, these artistic expressions are a captivating reflection of the Maldivian way of life.


One of the most prominent forms of traditional music in the Maldives is “Bodu Beru.” Bodu Beru, meaning “big drum,” is a lively and rhythmic performance that combines drumming, chanting, and dancing. It is a communal activity where a group of men and women come together, forming a circle, with one person leading the chants while others play the drums. The beats of the drums, the energetic movements, and the harmonious singing create an infectious and lively atmosphere, inviting everyone to join in the celebration.


In addition to Bodu Beru, the Maldives is home to other traditional musical instruments like the “Thaara,” a set of small hand drums, and the “Fulhu,” a wind instrument made of bamboo. These instruments are often played during festive occasions and cultural performances, adding depth and variety to the music.


Maldivian traditional dance is another captivating aspect of the local culture. The “Bodu Beru Dhivehi Raivaru” is a style of dance performed during Bodu Beru performances. The dancers move in sync with the beats of the drums, using graceful hand movements, swaying hips, and rhythmic footwork to express the mood and emotions of the music. The colorful costumes, adorned with traditional patterns and designs, further enhance the visual appeal of the dance.


The “Thaara Maafathi” is another traditional dance form that showcases the agility and skill of the performers. It involves using the Thaara drums while performing intricate footwork and synchronized movements. The dancers maintain a playful and joyful spirit as they showcase their talent and grace.


During festive occasions, you may also witness the “Langiri” dance, which features a group of women dancing in a circular formation. The dancers wear vibrant traditional attire and perform graceful movements, accompanied by melodic singing. Langiri dances portray themes of love, unity, and happiness and are often performed during weddings, festivals, and celebratory events.


Experiencing traditional Maldivian music and dance is not only a visual and auditory delight but also a window into the soul of the Maldivian culture. These cultural expressions have been passed down through generations, preserving the rich heritage of the islands. By immersing yourself in the captivating rhythms, melodies, and movements, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the artistic traditions of the Maldives.



The Maldives, with its picturesque beaches, turquoise waters, and luxurious resorts, has long been a sought-after destination for travelers seeking relaxation and natural beauty. However, beyond the postcard-perfect scenes lies a vibrant local culture and a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.


Immersing yourself in the local life of the Maldives offers a truly transformative journey. From savoring the flavors of traditional Maldivian cuisine to exploring bustling local markets and witnessing skilled artisans at work, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the Maldivian way of life. Participate in local festivities and celebrations, where you can join in the colorful parades, lively dances, and music performances that celebrate the cultural heritage of the islands.


As sustainability is at the forefront of the Maldives’ tourism efforts, engaging in eco-friendly practices and supporting local initiatives is crucial. By choosing eco-resorts, participating in coral reef conservation programs, and supporting local artisans, you’ll play a part in preserving the pristine environment and supporting the local communities.


Engaging in local activities and sports offers unique opportunities to connect with the friendly locals. Whether it’s traditional fishing, trying your hand at coconut-based sports like “Baibala,” or learning about traditional crafts and skills, these experiences allow for authentic interactions and a deeper appreciation of the Maldivian way of life.


Encountering Maldivian wildlife, both underwater and on land, is an awe-inspiring experience. Snorkel or dive among vibrant coral reefs, observe dolphins and exotic bird species, and appreciate the efforts being made to protect and preserve the precious ecosystems of the Maldives.


Exploring local markets and bazaars provides an immersive cultural experience. From haggling for fresh produce, sampling traditional snacks, and discovering unique handicrafts, these lively marketplaces offer a glimpse into the daily lives and vibrant community spirit of the Maldives.


Lastly, traditional Maldivian music and dance create a captivating ambiance that reflects the cultural heritage of the islands. Be mesmerized by the beats of the drums, the rhythmic movements, and the vibrant costumes that bring these ancient art forms to life.


In conclusion, by delving into the local life of the Maldives, you’ll go beyond the surface and uncover a world of authentic experiences, immersing yourself in the rich culture, traditions, and natural wonders of this remarkable destination. Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural immersion, or relaxation, the Maldives offers a truly unforgettable journey that will create memories to last a lifetime.