While in the Maldives, I had the chance for a day tour of the main island Male. Now getting from your resort island to Male, will usually involve some exorbitant day fee … get used to it. You’re in the Maldives now – things are going to be expensive as a foreigner – that thought will make you pass the time better. Coming in by boat into the main island – you get a small sense of how crowded it is …
Now I’ve been some of the world’s most crowded cities : Mexico City, Manila, Buenos Aires; but Male takes the cake. The island is 1.7 km long and 1.0 km wide, but with over 100,000 people crammed onto it, Male is by some measures the world’s densest city.
Because of the extreme lack of space on such a tiny island, there are very few cars … in fact, many locals ridicule the cars because the lack of functionality is so ridiculous – however cars are a huge status symbol, since they are prohibitively expensive. Any clear pathway around seems to be a “road” …
It’s one thing to have paths, but another thing for paths to become roads for these scooters. The majority of Maldivians live in Male, hence they have has to find inventive ways to contain nonsense like this …
Since the city is a small island, they had to get creative to contain so many people and shops and everything. Some of the impressive ways they manage this:
- Almost all roads are one-ways
- Many buildings are multistory and quite narrow.
- Many elevators are small and can carry 6 people at a time.
- People use bikes or cycles – it’s not a large place to get around at all.
Male’s main street Boduthakurufaanu Magu, home to banks and most government buildings, runs along the north shore and it’s about 6 large city blocks long …
The great thing about Male is that your tour can be as short as 45 mins, since there aren’t that many places to see. Since I was the only person speaking English (the rest of the boat was Chinese and Korean), my tour guide took me on his personal scooter.
Aside from riding around, there are 4 main points of interest on the island
1. Islamic Center & Majid Sultan Mohamad Thakurufaanu Al-au’zam
Male’s best-known architectural landmark, just south of Jumhooree Maidhaan. The complex contains the largest mosque in the Maldives, topped with a golden dome and capable of accommodating 5,000 people.
It is quite beautiful in action
2. Sultan Park and National Museum. Sat-Thu 9 AM-5 PM. The sole surviving building of what was once the Sultan’s palace is now the Maldivian National Museum.
3. Fish Market : Not much needs to be said, but this is definitely a hub of the people. Both the fish market and the vegetable market seem to be always teeming with people.
4. Hukuru Miskiy (Old Friday Mosque). This Mosque is famous for its beautiful rooms with intricately carved panels (one in particular, of the XIII century, evokes conversion to Islam). The Mosque was built on a old West oriented temple and this explains its anomalous orientation. Very interesting are the white and blue minaret and the small cemetery with graves of ancient sultans on the West part.
If you’re ever there … here is a decent tourist link to all “attractions” in Male.