Male - Tiny Capital of the Maldives

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jun 11, 2014

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Flag of Maldives  , Kaafu Atoll,
Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Maldives is an island nation stretching from just southwest of India's southernmost point for hundreds of miles to a few degrees latitude south of the equator. The country is made up entirely of coral atoll islands and is said to be the world’s lowest lying nation. The coral islands drop off sharply with no continental shelf, an undersea topography that’s not conducive tsunami waves piling up as they approach the shore, resulting in almost no damage from the 2004 tsunami.

Although spread out over a huge area on the map, the Maldives are about 99.9% water and the small landmass is quite densely populated even though the country less than a half million residents. The Maldivian language is apparently related to Sinhalese spoken in Sri Lanka, but the culture is very influenced by traders from the Arabian Peninsula and incorporates many Arabic words. The Maldives are also very Muslim. The country forbids entry of dogs, pork products, alcohol, and what it calls "instruments of idolatry". Instruments of idolatry? Well, Carrrie, a young woman who had been on my trip through Sri Lanka had purchased two Buddha figures and a Ganesh (Elephant God) figure in Sri Lanka. The x-ray machine found them in her bag; they were confiscated; and she was given a receipt to claim them at the airport when she departed from the country. SO don’t even think about taking your Bible with you if you go to the Maldives on vacation.

That doesn’t mean tourists can’t get alcohol in the Maldives. It’s available and expensive at tourist resorts and on tourist cruise boats, but made very difficult for Maldivians to obtain.

Our guide Bongo met us at the airport and walked us to our Dhoni named Gulfaan, which was docked right at the airport. A dhoni is a traditional Maldivian fishing boat, although I question how traditional our boat actually was. We cruised a short distance to a point in the harbor where we could anchor overnight since the other 6 passengers who were not coming from Sri Lanka were not arriving until the next day.

I had planned for a day in Male after the cruise ended before my flight back to Nepal, but Bongo took us for a short tour around Male. Short because everything of interest in Male can be seen in about an hour – the Friday Mosque, the fish market, several small monuments…..and that’s about it. When I returned on my own for a day after the cruise I was bored out of my wits. I took an early morning walk around the island on the ring road which took all of about an hour since it’s only about three miles circumference. With 100,000 people crammed into about three square miles, Male is like a mini Manhattan or Hong Kong, but one without the excitement of those places.

I then tried to find other ways to entertain myself through the day, such as eating. The Maldives are quite expensive, though, and food is no bargain. Of course, when one is really bored drinking usually provides some relief, but that’s not an option in dry Male. Rumor is that drinks are available to foreign passport holders at the expensive hotel on Huahule Island where the airport is located, but that was a ferry ride away and more effort than it was worth.
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