Maldives – the sunny side of Life
Welcome to the Maldives, where sands are white as the smiles of the locals, where fish swim happily in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, where the weather is a dream, and the deep rays of the sun wait to engulf you their arms.
In ancient times, the shores of the Maldives welcomed lost travellers. Still welcoming, these shores remain, providing a tranquil haven for visitors.
Male’ is the capital city of the Maldives and the seat of the executive, legislature and judicial branches of the government of the Maldives. Male’ is also the financial and commercial capital of the country. Accordingly major government offices, banks and businesses are based on Male’.
Male’ city is one of the most densely populated cities of the world. Administratively neighbouring islands of Villingili and Hulhumale’ are considered as constituencies of Male’ City. Hulhumale’ is an artificially reclaimed island.
Once you reach Male’ you will be greeted by a giant flag located in the Republic Square proudly displaying the national colours of the Maldives. This square has a small park where locals and visitors hang-out. The Republic Square is found close to the north shore of Male’.
Right next to the Republic Square you will find the Headquarters of the Maldivian National Defence Force and Maldivian Police Service. The Islamic Centre is also found next to the square.
The Islamic Centre opened in 1984, is a popular attraction for tourists. The Islamic Centre is known for excellent architecture fused with traditional Maldivian and Islamic concepts. The magnificent golden domes of the Centre ornament the skyline of Male’. The interior of the mosque is adorned with intricate wood carvings and Arabic calligraphy.
The building houses the largest mosque in the Maldives named after the national hero of the country Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam. It also has a large conference hall, numerous offices and an Islamic library.
The Friday Mosque is a testament to Maldivian craftsmanship. The mosque was originally built in 1658. The Friday Mosque was mainly built using coral stones. These coral stones display elaborate stone carvings. This historic building preserves to this day traditional Maldivian art forms like wood carvings and lacquer works.
A coral stone minaret is located next to the mosque building. This minaret was previously the tallest minaret in the Maldives. A 17th century cemetery surrounds the Friday Mosque. Gravestones in this cemetery display intricate stone carving. The Friday Mosque is included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Medhu Ziyaarai Shrine
This shrine is found a few steps away from the Friday Mosque. According to local legend, this shrine is the final resting place of the Moroccan Islamic scholar who is credited with introducing Islam to the nation. The name of the scholar is Abul Barakaath Yoosuf al Barbaree.
Sultan Park is located in front of the Republican Monument unveiled to mark 30 years of independence. The Sultan Park is the best public spot in Male’. Large trees and colourful flowers create a welcoming feel. Previously the Sultan Park site housed Maldivian Royal Palaces.
The National Museum was first opened in 1952. However, the place underwent a major revamping process and a brand new National Museum was opened in 2010. The museum preserves a wealthy collection of items.
Artefacts and relics from pre- Islamic period to post Islamic period are displayed here. Regal dresses and items associated with Maldivian royalty can be explored. A rich collection depicting Maldivian craftsmanship and artistry is also displayed. You will even have the chance to discover moon rocks in the museum.
The Tsunami Monument is located in the southeast corner of Male’. This monument commiserates the devastation caused to the Maldives by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. Many lives were lost and inhabited islands were decimated that day. The stainless steel structure has round circles representing the number of the people killed during the Tsunami.
The Tsunami Monument is located next to the most popular surfing area of Male’. There are many parks and street vendors around the area.
A visit to the Maldives is not complete without visiting the epicentre of the country. Indulge in shopping in various markets and shops spread across Male’. Feast from excellent restaurants and cafes offering international and local cuisine.
The customs and social behaviour of the Maldivians have been greatly influenced by the Indians, Sri Lankans, Arabs and North Africans who visited the Maldives while traversing through the trading routes of the central Indian Ocean. The Maldivian culture is rich and vibrant due to the infusion of various other cultural elements.
Though Maldives was culturally influenced by other traditions, Maldivians have built and preserved an exclusive cultural identity.
Accordingly the Maldivians converse using a language of their own; called Dhivehi. In 1153 AD Maldivians converted to Islam and the religion has transformed and introduced new fundamentals to the Maldivian culture.
Maldivians inherited a treasure trunk of ancient mythology and folklore that was passed orally through generations. These myths cover fascinating stories on various aspects of island life.
Since the islands are surrounded by sea, most folktales depict fearful sea demons and spirits that haunt the islanders.
Life in Islands
Traditionally the island communities were very close-knit. This togetherness is still prevailing in the small island societies. Historically roles within a community were defined and allocated. Accordingly men will be mainly engaged in fishery, carpentry and toddy tapping. Women were mainly engaged in household duties and raising families.
Certain rituals and practices were followed in the islands on special occasions like weddings. Some of these rituals survive to this day.
The advent of tourism in the 1970’s accelerated the modernisation process of the country. Consequently novel industries were initiated and people became engaged in them. Today an increasing number of women hold crucial positions within the public and private sector. As a result of economic growth, dramatic lifestyle changes were introduced.
Music and Dance
The Maldives boasts of a rich culture of music and dance. Some of the cultural music and dances can trace their roots to distant continents. Regularly resort islands organise cultural performances to entertain their guests. Similarly during festivals you can observe islanders performing traditional music and dance items.
One of the most famous Maldivian cultural displays which involve singing and dancing is called the “Bodu Beru”. The origins of this spectacle can be traced back to East and South West Africa. The Bodu Beru performers, numbering around 20 will be wearing traditional garb of sarongs and white sleeved shirts. Bodu Beru performance is guaranteed to make you sway along with the drumbeats.
Other traditional music and dance items include; Dhandi Jehun, Langiri, Thaara and Gaa Odi Lava. Most of these items involve rhythmic music and dances using various cultural props.
There are some cultural routines exclusively performed by Maldivian women. They include; Bandiyaa jehun, Maafathi Neshun and Bolimalaafath Neshun. Some of these acts were designed to perform in the royal courts.
Indian and Western music have also greatly influenced the musicians of the country. Frequently resorts host performances of local bands to enliven their guests.
Maldives is formed as one of the most complex and vibrant atoll structures found anywhere on the planet. The 26 natural atolls are categorised into 20 atolls for administrative purposes.
The 20 administrative atolls have distinct names and features that makes each one of them extraordinary. Now it is possible to explore all the atolls of the Maldives by staying in resorts, hotels, guest houses and traversing across the ocean in liveaboards.
The following are the names of the 20 administrative atolls starting from the northernmost atoll and ending with the southernmost atoll of the Maldives.
Thiladhunmathi Uthuruburi (Haa Alifu Atoll)
Thiladhunmathi Dhekunuburi (Haa Dhaalu Atoll)
Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi (Shaviyani Atoll)
Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi (Noonu Atoll)
Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi (Raa Atoll)
Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi (Baa Atoll)
Faadhippolhu (Lhaviyani Atoll)
Male’ Atholhu (Kaafu Atoll)
Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi (Alifu Alifu Atoll)
Ari Atholhu Dhekunuburi (Alifu Dhaalu Atoll)
Felidhe Atholhu (Vaavu Atoll)
Mulaku Atholhu (Meemu Atoll)
Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi (Faafu Atoll)
Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi (Dhaalu Atoll)
Kolhumadulu (Thaa Atoll)
Hahdhunmathi (Laamu Atoll)
Huvadhu Atholhu Uthuruburi (Gaafu Alifu Atoll)
Huvadhu Atholhu Dhekunuburi (Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll)
Fuvahmulah (Gnaviyani Atoll)
Addu Atholhu (Seenu Atoll)