Sightseeing in the Maldives: One day in Male - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sightseeing in the Maldives: One day in Male

Most tourist traveling to the Maldives tend to aim directly for one of the many resort islands where one can experience heavenly comfort and luxury and forget the hassle of daily life (for instance with a stay at a romantic water bungalow). However, if you have the chance to visit the Maldives and want to get a glimpse into how the daily life of the local people is then your best shot would be to spend a day to visiting the capital Male.

2015 marks 50 years of independence for the Maldives
Male is not only the capital of the Maldives, but it is also the city that gave name to its the island group, as "Maldives" can be translated to "The islands (dives) of Malé'". It is the most populous island in the Maldives, and with approximately 153,400 citizens it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. In comparison the population of Male was at 20,000 in 1987, and the extreme population growth has led to a lack of space which is making it necessary to use land-filling as a tool to expand the size of the island. 
Above: From the ferry port on the airport island
It is easy to get to Male from the airport island. When you arrive at Ibrahim Nasir international Airport you can find a ferry with regular departures to Male which is being used by the locals for transport. It costs 10 Rufiyaa for one person during daytime, and takes about 15 minutes (note that it is hard to say wether they follow a strict time schedule though; some of the times we took the ferry it seemed like they were waiting a little extra for the ferry to fill up more before departure).

Above: The port at Male seen from a nearby restaurant

Things to see in Male
The island is not that big, and most of the sights worth visiting in Male are situated on the northern part of Male. These places can easily be reached by foot, which probably is the best way to get around because of the short distances. But you have to be aware that the streets are not very walker-friendly; most of the time you’ll have to be on the lookout for cars and bikes that suddenly come out of nowhere heading in your direction.

Above: Local fishing boats
After dropping off our luggage at the hotel we went for a stroll around town. We stopped by some of the places often visited by tourists and locals (none the like), but unfortunately a lot of the shops in the area were closed since it was Friday, including the fish market. In the local fruit market it was however business as usual.
At the fruit market we bought a huge coconut for 15 Rufiyaa, and after we had drunk the coconut milk the man at the fruit stand helped cutting the coconut in two peaces and even made us a spoon from the coconut’s shell so that we could use to scratch out the coconut meat. Fresh and delicious!

Above: The West part of the ferry area with the Presidential Jetty
We continued strolling, and passed by some interesting buildings on our way around as well. There’s a smaller marked close to the fruit market where they sell fruits, dried fish and some electrical appliances situated by the harbour. This market wasn’t really that interesting in itself, but we got a nice view of the very Sydney-inspired Presidential Jetty.

Above: design that somewhat resembles the Opera House in Sydney
By the Presidential Jetty we passed the Republic Square where the headquarters of Maldives National Defence Force, the Shaheed Hussain Adam Building, is located.

Above: The Shaheed Hussain Adam Building, headquarters of Maldives National Defense Force

Above: The new fountain at the Republic Square
The Republic Square just reopened in July 2015 after having gone through renovation that coincided with the celebration of the Maldives' 50 years of independence. At this occasion the old unused fountain at the Republic Square was replaced with the fountain on the picture above.

Women covered in burqa sweeping the stairs of the Islamic Center
The Maldives is still a rather conservative islamic country, and the religion has a strong base in Male. Inside the Islamic Center situated close by the Republic Square you can find the Grand Friday Mosque (Masjid-al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu-al-A'z'am), one of the largest mosques in South East Asia. Islamic rules seem to be followed passionately as well; when we passed by we could see women all covered up in burqa sweeping the stairs outside the entrance to the center.
Above: The Islamic Center with the Maldivian flag in the foreground
Besides the Islamic Center we also made a brief stop outside the old Male Friday Mosque (Male Hukuru Miskiy) which is situated right nearby the center. This mosque was built in 1658 on top of the remains of an even older mosque from 1153, and coral boulders were used as the basic construction material. Although it has gone through a number of renovations since then, the mosque has been in continuous use since it was built. 
Above: Outside the Male Friday Mosque
Above: The Male Friday Mosque
Above: A statue beside the mosque
From the stop outside the mosques we decided to change our course and head down to the Male Beach. There is one beach on the whole island of Male, an artificial one situated to the very east of the island. It seems like this is where the locals gather to chill out, and a lot of people were gathered around with friends and family.  

Above: Panorama of Male's beach
Although the beach in itself was very idyllic we were at the same time reminded of the strict religious practices enforced in the Maldives, with signs by the beach that forbid revealing swimwear such as bikinis. 
No bikini allowed
This didn't do anything to kill the mood though; people were enjoying their time and lound club music was being played at the small square in front of the beach - 

 "My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun".

It was slightly ironic having this song blasting across the beach of a place where people believe that wearing a bikini makes you a slut.

Above: a dolphin archway

Anyway, spending a day in Male was well worth our time, and we felt we got a small glimpse into the daily life of the people living here. But unless you know some locals who can take you around I would say that it might not be worth spending more than one day here. The Maldives has so many islands to visit, and I'll be back with posts from some of the beautiful places we went to.

Basic information

Name of City Malé (Mah-lay)
Access Ferry from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport 
Population 153,379
Areal 5.8 km2

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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