The Maldives capital
Male is the capital of the Maldives, it is classical capital of a small state, unless its island location is taken into account. The Republic of Maldives has chosen Male as the real city of history since the 12th century. Sultans have lived here for a long time, which is why even the name sounded like Mahal for some time. In the Middle Ages Male was a defensive point and fortress city, and after the overthrow of the monarchy, in the second half of XX century, a new era of the country began here.
Interesting fact! Male owes his name to the Ceylon prince Koimal Kalo, who was becalmed in the Maldives, and then was proclaimed king at the instigation of the local population. The new ruler founded a palace and named Maa-le atoll (which means “spacious house”), and the neighboring island – Hulu-le. Today, the word «Male» may be used to mean the entire atoll, the capital and the island on which the main city stands.
The table of contents
The area of the Maldivian capital is just less than 7 square kilometers. With such compact size, this large settlement is home to almost 135,000 people, more than half of whom are indigenous to Male, while the rest come from neighboring islands, atolls and countries. Actually, out of here there are scientists’ conclusions that the city’s dense population is one of the largest in the world, even although the population occupies the 168th place. The capital is located o the seashore, in the southern part of North Male atoll, which is included in the Kaafu atoll in turn. Actually, this city consists of the four islands one of which is fully dedicated to a single airport.
As throughout the Republic of Maldives, Male is very hot because of the monsoon climate and there is a rainy season coinciding with our calendar summer. The average temperature in the city is typical for the equatorial climate – not less than +25 degrees and not more than +32.
As throughout the Republic of Maldives, Male is very hot because of the monsoon climate and there is a rainy season coinciding with our calendar summer. The average temperature in the city is typical for the equatorial climate – not less than +25 degrees and not more than +32. As the capital is surrounded on 4 sides by the waters of the world ocean, all industrial enterprises are located on its territory. Drinking water in Male is pumped out of deep wells, subjecting ocean currents to desalination, and electricity is generated by diesel stations. Wastewater is discharged back into the ocean and solid waste is disposed of on neighboring atolls in lakes.
The entire Male economy is based on tourism, which is guaranteed by 60% of the country’s foreign currency earnings. This includes various fees, excursion fees and expenses in entertainment complexes. The city also has a port and harbor, and it is here that the headquarters of Maldivian airlines are based (thanks to which travelers are just moving between the atolls and not only).
If we talk about the streets of Male, it should be noted that the capital is divided into 6 blocks, and not all of them are located in North Male, but only four:
- Maafannu is a northwestern city known for its markets, embassies and family pensions;
- Henveiru is the northeast of the capital with its rich villas, ministries and bank offices;
- Galolhu is the southern part of Male’, which is a residential area;
- Machangoli is the central part of the city with cafes and restaurants.
Willingili Atoll, formerly a prison camp for convicted criminals, is home to the pristine beaches of Vilimale and the Hulhumale neighborhood on a young artificial island. There are two additional blocks: Hulhule is on the island of the same name with the Tourist Board, the Hulululu airport, and the Hilumale airport. Ibrahim Nasir and the hydro-aerodrome and Guli Falu is a port under construction where reefs are being rebuilt.
Interesting fact! Each block of Male has its own history of names, all of which were invented by a local fisherman. For example, Maafannu combines the words “big” and “the end of the path from village to sea”, and Henveiru is “a place where fishermen throw rods with bait”. Galolhu is formed from a “stone niche” and Machangoli from a “windward fork”.
Construction in the city is very dense, so that the houses are located close to each other.
Interestingly, the sandy streets are called “goali” and they are not much different from the island paths. But “magoo” is a wide avenue, paved with asphalt. The main turbulent life boils on the northern side of the capital, namely along the embankment with a long name of Bоdu Thakurufaanu and near the markets. There are two other main streets in Male that divide the city into residential areas or blocks: Chаndаneе Magu и Madjeedi Magu.
The small capital can be bypassed and take a look in 2-3 hours. Most of the tourist attractions are located in the northern part of the main island, and in the east there is a public beach, where you can (or even need) to swim in clothes in order not to go against the local Muslim customs. The list of the most interesting places in the capital is as follows:
- The National Museum is a starting point for getting to know the history of the country. Here you will find all the evidence of the failed coups, belongings of the monarchs, rare musical instruments, the first Muslim artifacts of the Maldives and some finds of Tur Heyerdahl;
- Jumuri Maidan Park is a place for family walks along blossoming alleys and admiring the new presidential residence;
- Sultan Park is the former location of the palace and gardens of the main ruler of the Maldives. Now there is only one wing of the royal residence, but you can enjoy lilies, orchids, roses and ficuses;
- Muliage Palace is a colonial-style building in honor of the son of Sultan Shamsuddeen III. The palace, which had stood idle for forty years, was converted to the residence of the president, but he soon moved to the palace of Temuge.
Of course, the mosques in the Maldives should not be ignored. From an architectural point of view, they look very discreet, but there are 25 of them in the capital city. The main thing here, certainly, is the Friday Mosque with a prayer hall for 5 thousand people. The building was designed by a Malaysian architect and is attractive with its “international” interior: Greek tiles, Pakistani carpets, Maldivian wooden panels. It is also worth visiting Hukuru Miskшiy, a mosque on the site of a pagan temple erected in the middle of the 19th century. Here tourists are attracted by original ornaments, works of teak and sandalwood, coral walls. Near the mosque there is a white minaret of the XVII century and a cemetery of sultans with chapels and steles. Other interesting mosques include Bandara Miskiiy, Kalhu Vakaru Miskiiy and Daruma Varitha Miskiiy.
If time permits, you can visit the local square named in honor of the Republic. In terms of architecture, this is a traditional urban space for mass gatherings, which has recently been expanded by the authorities. However, the place is interested in its history: it is here that protests and processions have taken place for centuries in the Maldives. On free days, it is worth seeing the capital’s Islamic Centre, the National Gallery, the burial place of the Medhuziyaaraiy, where the traveller who gave Islam to the Maldives is buried, and the tomb of the national hero, Mohamed Takurufan.
Special attention should also be paid to the markets of Male, where every tourist can feel the local national flavor in all its glory and even bargain. Haveeree Hingun Street has a market called Dhathuruveringe and a fish market next to it. However, experienced travellers know that fruits can be bought on the street across the coast or at the marina. Pineapples, mangoes, papaya, coconuts, bananas – there is plenty to choose from. There are also rarer goods, such as areca palm trees or betel leaves. Interestingly, bananas are sold either by four or by the piece. As for fish, in the afternoon you can take barracuda, tuna, and swordfish. Nearby you will also see the Wood Market with coconut palm trees for burning stoves. Also, on Male near the port there is a Singapore bazaar, a place with souvenir shops.
If you like not only excursions and shopping, you can go fishing (for example, to catch octopus), dive with a mask to watch turtles, swim with dolphins. In general, the city offers the same list of water attractions as any tourist island in the Maldives. Unlike other metropolitan capitals, there are no theatrical or concert performances in Male.
Most tourists planning to travel to the Maldives are interested in the cost of food and accommodation in the capital. If you plan to visit restaurants and cafes, you should know that coffee costs about two dollars. You can also order a Maldivian breakfast at the same price. The average price of the main course for lunch is 5-15 dollars. Lobsters cost the most: $25 apiece. A full dinner in a prestigious restaurant will cost $100, not counting drinks. However, alcohol is not served in restaurants in the Maldives in any case.
The cost of natural products in the markets in the capital of the Maldives is not the lowest. These food prices are driven by a high proportion of imports: food is shipped from Sri Lanka and India. Correspondingly, mark-ups make it difficult to count on inexpensive tropical fruits, eggs or groceries. But on other islands, fruits cannot be bought in free access: they are only brought in by ferry once a week. So you don’t have to choose. In the local market pineapple will cost 2.5-5 dollars, and bananas – a dollar for four pieces.
If you like traditional shops, head to the Agora supermarket on Sosun Magu Street. There’s a relatively rich selection of fermented dairy products, fruits, baked goods and even cosmetics. And for your birthday, you can get ice cream as a gift. Fantasy Supermarket on Fareedhee Magu and the STO Center will also delight you. Here it makes sense to buy soap and shampoo in advance so that you don’t have to spend money on the tourist islands, but also buy swimming gear on Chaandhanee Magu Street.
Souvenirs in Male are three times more expensive than on the islands. Economically it is quite understandable: tourists are in a hurry to buy gifts before departure and do not look at the prices. On such developed islands as Thoddoo or Rasdhoo, prices are lower. However, think in advance whether you will visit the tourist atolls at all, because on desert islands, of course, there are no souvenirs at all, and then it is better to solve this issue in Male. If you are going to go shopping in the capital, pay attention to national dhoni boats made of mother-of-pearl and wood, as well as trinkets made of coral and shark jaws, reed mats with patterns. Of course, there are boxes with vases and T-shirts with national costumes, shells, natural oils, etc. However, handicrafts in Male are fading, so the main part of the production is also export.
Please also note that if you are unable or unwilling to walk around the island, you will need to include a cost item such as transportation. Taxis cost $1-2, but sometimes it is more reasonable to use an airport ferry to the desired destination. The alternative is inexpensive public buses.
Now about the prices of accommodation. There are prestigious villas in every corner of the Maldives, but in Male you can find quite a budget hotel. Hostels and guest houses in the vicinity of the airport (for those who are tired of the road) offer rooms for 40-50 dollars per person per day. Their advantage is that they are usually on the first beach line or just a few minutes from the ocean. Also, the price usually includes breakfast. A hotel room will cost 60-150 dollars for two per day, but it is free of tax, environmental charges and service. For this price, a bungalow with breakfast and sometimes an airport transfer are usually offered. In all accommodation cases, it is better to take care of early booking, as it will help to save 10-30% of the original price of accommodation. It is important: it’s better to settle away from the port, but not in the central neighborhoods if you want to see the ocean. If you see Male as a tourist destination but are interested in a cheaper hotel, stay at Hulhumale, where hotels are newer, prices are lower and urban life is calmer.
So, you can be sure that today the capital of the Republic of Maldives lives in an intensive rhythm.
Of course, large tourist facilities, luxury restaurants, five-star hotels are located on other atolls (and more often on resort islands). But this does not reduce the flow of travelers in Male, where everyone is on the move and tends to move from one point to another. It is said that the streets of Male are too dirty, unsustainable and there are real disasters on the roads. But all this is an integral part of the existence of the capital, even the smallest in the world. Although there are not many untouched paradise landscapes here compared to the rest of the islands, Male will find something to interest every tourist.