While you’re probably thinking of more of a beach vacation when you think of these tropical islands, checking out the Maldives Capital can also be a unique experience. You’ll probably be making at least a short visit through the capital since the international airport is nearby and local ferries leave from Male. Our guesthouses are at various distances from Male but whether you’re close or far, you are still surrounded by tropical islands, blue green lagoons and beautiful scenery that the Maldives is famous for.
The Maldives capital Malé, (pronounced as “Mah-lay”) is located on the North Male Atoll’s southern rim. It is 1.7 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide, not large by any means, with a population of 100,000, about ½ of the entire country’s population. You can walk all around the city in just over an hour. As the population expanded and the island did not, the new Hulhumalé Island was built between Hulhule and Male.
The city of Male Maldives is divided into six parts: Henveiru – Maafannu Galolhu- Macchangolhi- The nearby island of Vilingili – The artificial Hulhumalé Island. Along the North shore, you’ll find the main street of Male known as Boduthakurufaanu Magu. This street mainly houses the skyscrapers, banks and important government buildings.
Must-See Palaces, Art Galleries and Museums of Male
The city of Male is one feature that makes the Maldives more than just a beach destination – by adding some history and culture. It is often visited during the day time or on the last day of holiday. Although it is a relatively small city, Male is the home to many interesting museums and mosques. Male’s museums house very interesting and precious artefacts procured by the famous explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, when he first visited the Maldives. Also found in Male is the Singapore Bazaar which is popular for traditional handicrafts showcasing the talents and skills of the locals in hard handwork. Just off the Male’s shore is a submarine that offers the opportunity to explore the hidden reefs of the island.
In Male, most of the important places to visit are located on the Northern shores of the island. The major tourist attractions of Male are:
Numerous popular mosques are located in Maldives such as the Hukuru Miskiiy, Mulee Aage Palace and Grand Friday Mosque. The Grand Friday Mosque is the biggest mosque in Maldives and is capable of accommodating nearly 5000 worshippers at one time. This mosque was constructed in 1656 by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar. It is beautifully carved with ornamental patterns and Arabic writings. Prior permission is required by non-Muslim tourists to gain entry to the mosque.
Islamic Centre Adorning Male’s façade for centuries, this is considered an architectural landmark of Male and part of the largest mosque in all the Maldives. The golden-domed mosque is situated on the southern part of the Jumhooree Maidhaan and is the symbol of the significance of the Islamic religion. It houses offices, classrooms, conference hall and Islamic library. The mosque has elaborate artwork,remarkable coral engravings, tombs of royal members and national heroes and a wonderful edifice with unique minarets.
In 1956, the establishment of Hukuru Miskiiy took place in Male Maldives. The mosque is mainly popular for its intricate woodcarvings and excellent lacquer work. Coral stones were used to build the exterior and interior walls of the mosque and were carved with ornamental designs and Arabic writings. In its compound, many ancient tombstones can also be found. All the mosques offer tourists glimpses of the history of Maldives.
Mulee-Aage – Established in 1906 under the rule of Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III, it was declared in 1953 to be the Official Residence of the President and was later renamed as the Presidential Palace. The building, with its attractive white carvings, is located opposite Huskuru Miskiiy. Sultan Park and National Museum – Situated in Sultan Park, the National Museum of Maldives was once the Palace of the Sultan, which has now been revamped. This museum upholds a major chunk of the rich historical and cultural heritage of Maldives showcasing valuable items like cloth and paper manuscripts, ornaments and costumes worn by different queens and kings. It also has historical items like palanquins, thrones, ceremonial robes, arms and armours, anthropological objects, stone items and old photographs . Visitors can get a glimpse of the island’s past cultural heritage in the pre-Islamic period in the Maldives. In fact, the museum was established in an attempt to conserve history and invoke patriotic feelings among the people.
Gallery and Monuments
Esjehi Art Gallery: This art gallery is situated in Male, just on the right side of the also popular Sultan Park. The Esjeshi Art Gallery is simply a perfect treat for those who greatly appreciate art. It is located in one of the most prominent and oldest buildings in Male and although it is relatively smaller compared to other art galleries in other countries, it has a decent and fascinating collection of art, making it a must-see place during your Maldives holiday.
Independence Square (Jumhooree Maidhaan) – This small park is considered the centre point of Male and is marked by a huge Maldivian flag. You will find heavy security here because all the political demonstrations take place in this park.
The Tomb of Mohammad Thakurufaanu is popular for its historical significance. This tomb was built to commemorate the memory of a national hero, Sultan Ghaazee Mohammed Thakurufaanu who was responsible for achieving the freedom of the country. The Esjehi art gallery was established to promote the modern and traditional artwork of the Maldivians. It contains preserved wood panels and beautiful carvings. Several workshops and exhibitions are also held in this art gallery.
The Male International Airport
The Male International Airport is located on the neighbouring Hulhule Island. The ferries available from the airport to the city of Male leave at regular intervals for the convenience of tourists. It’s just a short 10 minute journey. Special flights to other Maldives islands are operated from Male by airlines like Trans Maldivian Airways and Maldivian Air Taxi. You can get to some of the local islands by a local ferry.
Tourist Activities in Male Maldives
You may like to try the submarine trip which will give you an enchanting view of the ocean life. For the shopaholics, Male offers a variety of shopping options. You can visit the Male Market for souvenirs like ‘thudu kuna’ and try the State Trading Organization for imported goods from Singapore, India and Middle East at cheaper prices.
The Maldives Fish Market is indeed a must-see attraction and this is proven by the crowd that never fails to visit the place. In fact, it is one of the most crowded attractions in the Maldives. Globe trotters are fond of visiting the place because of the delicious fresh fruits, vegetables, tuna, dried fish and other fish variety the place offers. What makes it really unique is its unbelievably clean place despite the wet and perishable goods it offers. You can see a huge variety of fish here – it’s a fish lover’s dream.
Believe it or not Male has some great beaches too! Some of the most popular beaches here are the Sun Island beach, Royal Island Resorts, Paradise Island and Fuammulak.
The Maldives capital also offers shows, water sports, parades and carnivals. The neighbouring Hulhumale artificial island can be reached by boats, available near the airport ferries. It has beautiful beaches, cafes and restaurants.
If you like shopping, then you should visit the Majeedhee Magu.The place is lined with stores offering an array of products including, electronics, cosmetics, garments and jewellery. The Orchid Magu and Chandanee Magu have a bunch of souvenir cafes and shops. Remember while you’re shopping: you might not want to be caught taking black coral, red coral, turtle shell and pearl oyster shells from the country is prohibited.
Dining & Nightlife in Male Maldives
Eating can be quite an experience in Male. The Maldives has its own unique taste but influences from Indian, Sri Lankan, Arabic and Oriental cuisines create a whole new identity for a Maldivian cuisine. If you want to taste an authentic Maldivian food, try eating on small cafes or local eateries. They taste almost as good as the foods that are served in your hotel restaurant for a fraction of the cost. For the less adventurous and for those who want to stay on the safe side, several restaurants also offer Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, Indian and American cuisines. There are international dining options such as the Jade Bistro, Olive Garden, Aquatic Residency, Shell Beans, FoodBank, Maarukeytu Hota, Pool Side, Hulhule Island Hotel and Thai Wok. Except for Hulhule Island Hotel, alcohol is not available anywhere in Male.
Unlike other major cities, Male is not known to for bars and clubs where you can party till dawn but there are other forms of entertainment. The New Harbor sometimes holds an outdoor concert. There are two cinemas in Male, the Olympus and Star, located in Majeedhee Magu.
Various luxurious, mid-range and budget hotels and guesthouses are available in Male Maldives. It is advisable to book your hotel in advance to avoid any immigration hassles – they do ask where you are staying at immigration upon arrival. You should keep in mind that the room rates don’t include the tourist tax.Getting to know a bit about Male Maldives can make your passing through the Maldives capital a bit more interesting.On your visit to Maldives, think about visiting Male to find out more about the historical and cultural significance of this island nation. Spending a night or two in Male can add to your Maldives experience but it will probably just be a stopover on your way to the guest houses in the serene islands.