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The capital of Maldives, Male is the most populated city of the nation. It is also the commercial and financial capital of the country. Therefore, a number of government offices and banks are based in this city. Male is the perfect holiday destination for those who wish to relax and pamper themselves with extravagance.
In the ancient days, Male was referred to as “Mahal” which means palace. This is believed to be the origin of the name Maldives which comes from “Mahal” and “Dwip”. The people from Kerala who had settled in Lakshadweep viewed Maldives as an extension of their land. As per a Maldivian epic, Koimala (son of the prince) settled in this area and subsequently made Male his capital region.
Even before the 12th century, the dynasties that ruled over Maldives were based in Male. In the 17th century, few trading houses were constructed in this region; however, the economic and cultural activities were very limited during this time. It is estimated that the population was less than 5,000 till the late 1920s.
Historically, Male was surrounded by gates and forts for protection of the Royal Palace. This palace was unfortunately destroyed when the city was remodelled. Modernisation began in the 1930s; banks, hospitals and government offices started to appear in this region. The tourism industry has been giving a boost to the economy since the 1970s.
Why You Should Visit
Male is known all around the world for its spectacular landscapes and turquoise waters. Whether it’s a romantic getaway or a fun trip with friends, vacationers have plenty of reasons to visit this island.
The city of Male has an interesting combination of cultures - Arab, Sinhalese and South Indian influences. There are many cultural attractions in this city; visiting the National Museum and the Sultan Park will help in understanding the culture in a better manner.
Whether it’s casual dining, street food or exclusive gourmet meals, Male offers an irresistible variety of cuisines to choose from. Authentic dishes are commonly fish based and often feature coconut and spices.
The economy of Male is largely based on tourism; there are several hotel and resorts on this island. Underwater spas, underground wine tasting and pristine waters are the highlights of these resorts.
Male is the very definition of paradise; it’s almost as if you’ve entered a gorgeous painting depicting the best of nature. It is very easy to zone out on this island- visitors often need a gentle nudge to come back into reality.
This city is small in size but big on attractions; Male offers some of the best sights and scenes in the country. It is an important city for visitors as it serves as a gateway to many other remote islands in Maldives.
Life is always better closer to the sea; sitting at the pier while staring at the azure waters has the potential to change your perspective towards life. It fills you with renewed vigour and prepares you to take on the challenges of life in a sporting manner.
National Museum: China provided the funding for the construction of this building. The museum has an excellent collection of historic artefacts on display. These artefacts help tourists in tracing back the history of these islands. The marine section of the museum includes boat models and coral samples. The highlight of the marine section is the skeleton of the Longman’s beaked whale which is very rare and is yet to be spotted alive in the sea.
Grand Friday Mosque: This is among the most commonly visited sites by tourists. Built in 1658, this is the oldest mosque in Maldives. It can accommodate 5,000 people at a time. The mosque was built using corals; these corals display intricate carvings and Quranic scripts. The Grand Friday Mosque serves as landmark for tourists and one of the most important places of worship for the locals.
Mulee-aage: Located close to the Grand Friday Mosque, this was originally built for use of the Sultan’s son. However, it was declared to be government property after the Sultan was expelled from the country. The building was used for government work for 40 years after which it became the residence of the President.
The Republic Square: Built in 1989, this place is ideal for people to relax with their friends and relatives. Right at the centre of the square flies the nation flag – the largest flag of this kind in the whole of Maldives. Important government buildings such as the police headquarters and the National Security Service are located close to this square.
Male Fish Market: To get a real taste of the local culture, tourists must visit the fish market in Male. In addition to the freshly caught fish this market also offers colourful fruits and vegetables. The location of this market is suitable for viewing the fishing activities of this island – the main driver of the economy before the tourism industry began to prosper.
Tsunami Monument: Located in the southeast corner of the city, the monument is built in memory of those who could not survive the devastating tsunami in the year 2004. The stainless-steel structure stands at the edge of the sea – the spirals on it representing the number of people who lost their lives to the Tsunami.
The Esjehi Art Gallery: Situated in one of the most ancient buildings of the city, this art gallery has been set up to preserve and protect the artwork of the people of Maldives. Workshops are conducted in this gallery to give the local artists an opportunity to display their work of art.
Medhu Ziyaarai Shrine: This shrine is located very close to the Grand Friday Mosque. It is the tomb of a Moroccan Islamic scholar (Abul Barakaath Yoosuf al Barbaree) who is believed to have introduced Islam to this nation.
Favourite Local Foods
Male is truly a paradise for the foodies – there is a wide variety of dishes in different cuisines for tourists to choose from. The island food is largely influenced by the state of Kerala in India; however, there are certain traces of Arabic, Srilankan and Oriental cuisines. The curries are usually spicy and packed with flavour. Cleanliness is maintained in most of the restaurants in Male. There are many teashops in Male that serve inexpensive tea and snacks. Some of the local dishes that deserve to be tried in Male are mentioned below:Garudhiya: It consists of a fish broth with a serving of rice Mas huni: This shredded smoked fish dish is commonly had for breakfast on this island. Banbukeylu harissa: A curry dish that is prepared using breadfruit, coconut and chillies. Bis keemiyaa: A pastry that is stuffed with fish and boiled egg Some of the local snacks include bajiya – pastry stuffed with fish, keemia -deep fried rolls of fish, kulhi boakiba - fish cake and gulha: smoked fish stuffed in pastry balls. There are many teashops in Male that serve inexpensive tea and snacks. The Departure Restaurant at the airport offers Italian, Asian and continental cuisine. Some of the famous restaurants include Raanbaa, Haruge Café and the Dawn café. Vegetarian options are also available on this island. Athama Palace and the Evening café are vegetarian friendly and serve sumptuous Indian meals.
Favourite Local Things to Buy
Shopping in Male is an absolute delight because of the wide variety of options to choose from. With countless number of shops across its streets, Male is the centre for shopping in Maldives. Many markets are open till late in the night; therefore, shopaholics will not have to choose between other activities and shopping. Gift shops can be found almost everywhere on this island. Miniature boats, mats and slippers made of coconut leaves are popular souvenir items.
Tourists must visit the Local Market situated right opposite the Male fish market. You will be greeted by papayas and green bananas as you enter this market. This place is ideal for spice shopping. Visitors often purchase boxes of spice-mix to prepare flavourful curries on returning home. Small handicraft items can also be bought at this place.
All types of shopping items can be found in the Majeedhee Magu market – the most popular shopping street of the city. The shops on this street offer cosmetics, purses, fragrances, handbags, electronic gadgets and more. One stop at this street and you will have everything you needed to buy.
Souvenirs for friends and family can be bought at the Chaandanee Magu which was earlier known as Singapore Bazar. The most popular items among tourists include Thudu Kuna – Maldivian style mat and Dhonis – miniature version of a sailboat.
There are tourists who wish to stay in the comfort of their resorts instead of venturing out on the streets to do some shopping. Such tourists have nothing to worry about in the city of Male as they can take advantage of mobile markets. These markets visit different resorts on specific days of the week. They offer interesting local items at very reasonable prices. Bracelets and decorative items are among the commonly purchased things.
Things to do in Male
Visiting the artificial beach in Male is a nice way of spending time in the city. The soft sand and the crystal-clear waters of this beach make you forget the lack of natural beaches. Tourists can enjoy the sporting events, carnivals and music shows that are held near this beach.
With a wide array of bars, clubs and discos in the city, the night life of Male is full of glamour. Tourists can choose to dance the night away in the clubs and lounges of the city. International bands can be found performing popular numbers in the clubs of Male.
Spas are an integral part of the unforgettable memories made in Male. Spa lovers will be confused by the number of options that are available to them. A trip to Male would be incomplete without treating yourself to a luxurious spa treatment.
Take a walking tour of the capital city. Wandering the streets of Male is probably the best way to learn about its culture and history. The narrow streets of the city are overlooked by colourful high-rise buildings. Interacting with the locals at the Male Fish Market is interesting as well as fun.
Ideal Tour Package
A period of three to four days is desirable for a trip to the capital city of Maldives. The city does not have its own airport but it would be convenient for air travellers to land at the neighbouring island, Hulhule. Many international airlines such as Emirates, Air Sri Lanka and Singapore Airlines operate at this airport. Some tourists can also choose to book a chartered flight for themselves. Visitors from port cities such as Sri Lanka and Cochin can opt to travel by water. Several ferry boats operate between the airport and Male.
VISA and Travel
It is not difficult to reach the capital city of Maldives. Tourists can choose to travel by air or water depending on their convenience.
The visa and immigration requirements in Maldives is quite simple and hassle free. Maldives welcomes its tourists with open arms. A 30-day free visa is granted on arrival to all the tourists irrespective of their nationality.
Certain conditions need to be met to obtain this 30-day visa:
A valid passport that has a machine-readable zone; the passport should have a validity of at least six months.
Tourist must have a valid ticket to exit Maldives within a period of 30 days.
Visitors must be capable of covering the expenses of their stay or show a confirmed booking at a hotel or resort.
This tourist visa can be extended by applying to the Department of Immigration and Emigration - before the 30-day visa expires.
Note: The native language spoken in Maldives is Dhivehi but there are a number of people who can understand and speak English on this island. Rufiya is the original currency of Maldives. The current exchange rate is 1MVR=4.41INR.
Best Time to Visit
The temperature in Male ranges from 24 degree Celsius to 32 degree Celsius. Being close to the equator, the city witnesses rain showers quite frequently. However, the sun is always shining brightly in this region. The annual rainfall received by the city is about 1525 mm. Most of the tourists prefer to visit Male in the dry season – December to April. The temperature ranges between 25 degree Celsius to 29 degree Celsius during this time.
Tourist activity is usually at its peak during the Christmas – New Year time. The Independence Day is celebrated on the 26th of July. It is common to find children dancing at the Republic Square on this day. The Republic day is celebrated with parades and marches on the 11th of November.
Getting to Male
Transit time: 4 hrs from major cities
Cost ₹ 7,500 per person
There is so much to see in Male.
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