12 Sept 2013

Male: Stepping Back in Time in 48 hours

Located on the southern edge of Kaafu Atoll, Male is the capital city of The Republic of Maldives. It is one of the administrative divisions of Maldives and the country is named after it - “the islands or dives of Male”. Covering an area of 6 square kilometers, it is perhaps the smallest capital city. Nevertheless, it is a city packed with culture, history and palaces. In fact, it was also known as Mahal or King’s Island from where the ancient Maldives Royal dynasties ruled.
The Islamic Center, Male (Photo Courtesy: maldivestraveller.mv)
Grand Friday Mosque at the Islamic Center, Male (Photo Courtesy: alfatihoun.edaama.org)
 The city is so small that it can be covered by foot. 48 hours in Male is an ideal vacation for sightseeing and shopping. It consists of three other islands and a commercial harbour which makes it a prominent trading port of the country. The central island is heavily urbanized as a result of economic, industrial and commercial growth. Yet, the traditions of Male art and architecture is retained till date. It is intricately weaved into the city’s culture.

People of the city have their origins rooted in Sri Lanka and South India. Buddhist and Islamic influences are seen across different sections of the city. Today, many muslim structures are preserved as historical monuments. The Islamic Centre is one such architectural edifice which touches the skyline with its majestic golden dome. Completed in 1984, it consists of a huge mosque that can house as many as 5000 people. It is symbolic to the Islamic tradition which ruled every facet of life in the country for several centuries.
Hukuru Miskiiy, the Old Mosque, Male (Photo Courtesy: pbase.com )
 Much older is the Huskuru Miskiiy mosque built in the 17th century. This historical masterpiece is famous for its coral carvings and Arabic engravings on the wooden panels and lamp hangings. It is a popular tourist attraction and basks in the glory of traditional craftsmanship. Right in front of the mosque is the Mulee-Aage which was originally a palace. For a brief period it was the president’s official residence when Maldives became a republic. It is now the president’s office but one can still see the remnants of Islamic architecture in its walls.
National Museum, Male (Photo Courtesy: panoramio.com
Mulee-Aage, Male (Photo Courtesy:cia.gov ) 
 Another popular place of interest is the National Museum which contains historical artifacts such as thrones, palanquins and even the first printing press used in the country. Personal items of the Sultan such as his umbrella, headgear and ceremonial robes are treasured in its chambers. The museum is open to visitors on all days of the week except Fridays.

Tourism in Male is well developed and it is easy to find accommodation. Male flights are the primary mode of transport from other islands of Maldives and from nearby countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and India. January to March is the best time to visit as it has the least rainfall and pleasant weather. The rest of the year has high precipitation and moderately high temperatures.