Male’ would certainly
count as one of the smallest capitals in the world in terms of its
physical size. A third of the country’s population, about 75,000 live
in Male’. Different from any other island in the country, Male’ is a
city of high-rise buildings and paved roads. While the government
offices are located in one area, the main streets are lined with shops
and offices. In the old bazaar area which still houses the country’s
hub of wholesale and retail trade, the lanes are so narrow that a
single vehicle would find it difficult to navigate through, especially
with its throngs of busy people.There are no beaches on Male’; instead
seawalls surround all its sides. However, a newly landscaped
artificial beach area and adjoining breakwater stretching all the way
round to the harbour in the southwest of the island provide a pleasant
jogging route, especially popular in the evenings when it is cooler.
Male’ is still relatively green and pleasant. The streets in the
residential areas are shaded with trees, at places forming an arch
overhead. A fair number of main streets are lined with big trees
providing shade on both sides. Even a stroll around it would offer
interesting sites and shots for the memories; the fish market and the
local market at the northern waterfront, the new harbour in the
south-west corner and the 400-year old Friday Mosque, to name a few. A
stroll around the residential areas or shopping streets would provide
an insight into the life and livelihood of the residents of the
capital. Or simply sit down and relax at one of the small parks dotted
around the capital and just observe the pace of life. You may be
surprised at the large number of motorized vehicles in Male’. If you
prefer, you could make a tour of the capital by taxi. Many taxi
centers operate a number of comfortable, well-maintained taxis. The
maximum rates that can be charged are set by the government; the basic
fare for a single journey for four persons or less, from one point to
another is MRf.15.00, luggage carried in the trunk is charged at the
rate of MRf.5.00 per item, the basic charge increases to MRf.20.00,
from 12.00 midnight to 06.00 in the morning and charters cost
MRf.85.00 per hour.
Garments to Electronics
Shopping is the
favorite activity for the locals especially in the evenings, when it
is cooler. The Majeedhee Magu, which is the main road on the island,
has along its sides various shops selling goods from the smallest
commodities to virtually everything you could think of. The shops are
well stocked with garments, perfumes and cosmetics, jewelry, watches
or electronics, to name just a few. Many find it a pleasant experience
to join the throngs of shoppers on the main shopping streets in the
evenings. All shops are open until 11.00 in the night, except for
prayer times, when they are closed for 15 minutes.
Canned fish produced at the canning plant in Felivaru, Lhaviyani
Atoll is available in a number of shops in Male’. Tuna used for
canning are caught by the traditional pole and line method, as are all
fish caught in the Maldives, and therefore are ‘dolphin friendly’.
Vacuum packed smoked fish and chipped dried fish are also available in
many super markets around Male’. These genuine Maldivian products
would make excellent gifts for a friend. Or just take some home and
try them out yourself.
The Local Market
The Local Market, just a block away from the Male’ Fish Market on
the northern waterfront, is divided into small stalls. Here the pace
is slower and the atmosphere peaceful, compared to the hectic activity
in the rest of this neighborhood. Each stall is filled with a variety
of local produce mainly from the atolls. Here you will find different
kinds of local vegetables, fruits and yams, packets of sweetmeat, nuts
and breadfruit chips, bottles of home made sweets and pickles and
bunches of bananas hanging on coir ropes from ceiling beams. Another
building just next door sells smoked and dried fish.
It is not difficult to find your way around Male’, especially if you
carry a map with you. After all it is only two square kilometers. The
main street Majeedhee Magu, runs right across the island from east to
west. Chaandhanee Magu on the other hand runs from north to south.
Most souvenir shops line the northern end of Chaandanee Magu, earlier
known as the Singapore Bazaar for its many imports from Singapore.
Guides and vendors speaking in English and other foreign languages
patiently wait to serve the visitors. These shops are stocked with an
ample supply of gifts and souvenir items. Best buys include the ‘thudu
kuna’ the Maldivian mat woven with local natural fibers. Attractive
too are the wooden miniature ‘dhonis’. When shopping for souvenirs, do
keep in mind that export of products made of turtle shell, black
coral, pearl oyster shell and red coral is prohibited.
Built in the
17th century the Huskuru Miskiiy or Friday Mosque served the
population of Male’ as their main mosque for almost four centuries,
until the Islamic Centre and Grand Friday Mosque took over the
function in 1984. Built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar in 1656 the mosque
is a masterpiece of coral curving and traditional workmanship -
probably the best display of coral curving anywhere in the world. The
walls of the mosque are hewn together with blocks of filigree-curved
coral blocks. Heavy wooden doors slide open to the inner sanctums with
lamp hangings of wood and panels intricately curved with Arabic
writings. The area surrounding the mosque is a cemetery with a legion
of intricately curved coral headstones. The Munnaaru or minaret in
front of the mosque, used to call the faithful to prayer was built in
1675 by the same Sultan.
The Islamic Centre
The Islamic Centre is the most vivid architectural landmark of Male’.
You would see the spectacular golden dome in all its majesty
dominating the skyline, as you approach Male’, from any direction. The
building symbolizes the importance of Islamic religion, which had
ruled all aspects of life in the country for centuries. Completed in
1984, the Centre consists of a mosque big enough for 5000 people, an
Islamic library, conference hall, classrooms and offices.
Right in front of the Hukuru Miskiiy is Mulee-aage, a palace built in
1906 by Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III, replacing a house dating back
to the mid-17th century. The palace with its wrought iron gates and
fretwork friezes on its roof edges and well-kept garden was intended
for his son, but the Sultan was deposed. During World War II
vegetables were grown in its garden to help relieve food shortages. It
became the President’s Official Residence when Maldives became a
republic in 1953 and remained so until 1994, when the new Presidential
Palace was built. At present Mulee-aage houses the President’s Office.
The National Museum
The National Museum is housed in the only remaining building of
the former Sultan’s Palace, which is now the Sultan’s Park. It is an
Edwardian colonial-style building of three storey, fairly low key from
the outside compared to the amazing collection inside. The articles on
display range from thrones and palanquins used by former sultans to
the first printing press used in the country, the rifle used by
Mohamed Thakurufaanu in his fight against the Portuguese in the 16th
century, ceremonial robes, headgear and umbrellas used by Sultans to
statues and other figures dating from 11th century, excavated from
former temples. A variety of artifacts from times past would give an
idea of the unique and rich culture and history of this island nation.
A visit to the museum gives an instant insight to the wealth of
history most visitors never suspect existed. No longer will you think
of the Maldives solely in terms of a tourist destination. The museum
is open daily except Friday and public holidays from 9.00 to 11.40 and
3.00 to 5.40. A small fee is charges for admission.