June 6, 2018

Male: 24 Hours in the Maldivian Capital


It is highly unlikely that you would spend more than a few hours in Male (pronounced as ‘Maalay’) while on a holiday in Maldives. For a large section of travellers, Male is just a hop on hop off place on their way to any of the numerous luxurious island resorts or to any of the islands which offer budget options. However, I had a day to myself and though the place doesn’t have numerous attractions to tick off, I wasn’t disappointed.

Located in the southern tip of North Male Atoll, a part of Kaafu atoll, Male is made up of four islands which includes the main island and the airport island. Though it is just 5.8 sq km in area, Male is one of the most densely populated cities in the world as one-third of the country’s population lives on this island.  

It drizzled intermittently through the day as it was the onset of monsoon. Despite that I strolled through its narrow crowded streets with shops lined on either side. Many of the roads are one way due to its narrowness and I noticed that the number of bikes plying were much higher than cars. Though island is small enough to walk around, taxis are easily available if one requires. Being the month of Ramadan, all restaurants and cafes were closed during the day. However, there were a few supermarkets and bakeries open to satiate my hunger.


Opened in 1952, the National museum was where I headed first in the morning. This is the place to understand the history of Maldives through its large collection of artifacts such as antiques, wood engravings, corals, currencies, porcelain collection and collectibles from the royal family. It also speaks about the country’s culture and heritage through its displays and writings. The museum also has a section dedicated to their police department. Another attraction is the skeleton of a beaked whale. The museum is open from Sunday to Thursday and the charges are MVR 100 or $7.






Next to the museum is Sultan park, a fairly large green space in the middle of the city. Built on the location where the 16th century royal palace once stood, the park is a leash of greenery in the bustling city. With a large entrance gate, the place is beautifully maintained and is an ideal place for a stroll. The entry charges are MVR 75 for a foreign national.


The memorial opposite the park stands as a testament to the soldiers who lost their lives to a terrorist attack on 3rd November 1988.


The gleaming golden dome of the Islamic centre stands out in the skyline. Opened in 1984, the centre houses a large mosque, a library and a few offices. This architectural landmark is the largest mosque in Maldives and is also referred as Grand Friday mosque.



A few steps away from the mosque is the Republic square or Jumhooree Maidhaan which has a huge Maldivian flag fluttering in the sea breeze.


I walked ahead to the sea front and took in a lungful of the salty sea air as the breeze blew harder. The blue waters, bright sky and the bobbing boats made a beautiful frame and I languorously strolled along the walkway. This long stretch is the main road in Male and it takes you from one end of the island to the other. A while later I headed to buy some lunch as it drizzled again.



After the sun mellowed in the evening, I walked to the interesting Hukuru Miskiiy (Friday Mosque), which does not have the typical Islamic architecture. Built in 1656 CE, this mosque is of historical significance and is known for its exquisite carvings. The intricate carvings on the coral stones and the gorgeous lacquer work are fine examples of Maldivian art and craftsmanship. The premises also houses shrines and tombs of various Sultans.




My visit to Male’s two beaches, both artificial, was hampered when the intermittent drizzles turned into a heavy downpour. I ended the day with some delicious sea food at Seagull cafe. Male does have some lovely restaurants that serve sea food and local cuisine.


Both Maldivian Rufiya and U.S. Dollars are accepted across the city. However, it is advised to carry both the currencies, in case some small shops or ferries don't accept dollars.

Though Male might not have a huge list of places to visit or things to do, if you have a day to spare, the city would definitely keep you engrossed.


Navigator:

There are regular flights from all major cities in India to Maldives. There are ferry services frequently between airport and Male. The frequency reduces after 10 PM until 6 AM. Taxis are easily available to commute within the city.

Food and Accommodation:

Though sea food is popular across Male, there are restaurants which serve other cuisines too such as Continental and Asian. Seagull cafe, Symphony restaurant, The Sea House and Lemongrass Fifth are some of the recommended places to eat. Male has a wide range of hotels to stay. I stayed at LVIS Boutique which is a good mid range option.

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