They say there are two Maldives, Male’ and the rest of the country. Any comparisons between the simple, quiet life of the islands and the competitive vigour of this pocket-sized capital city are becoming more and more tenuous with every passing year. Male’ is the funnel through which almost all political, social and economic activity passes, trickling out to the ‘fisherman’s’ islands’. It is as rich and modern, and forward thinking as anywhere in South Asia. A half-day visit will give you the flavour of the place and a chance to check out the historical highlights and do a bit of shopping.
Conveniently, everything you need to see is within a few minutes walk of the arrival jetty. The waterfront itself offers a pleasant stroll, a couple of restaurants, a square to rest in and look around, and the main market areas, including, the not to be missed, fish market. Just behind the front are the historical sights: the fine modern mosque, the old Friday Mosque, the first presidential palace, the museum and Sultan Park. An informative guide is a great help in appreciating these places, but beware of those whose main aim is to steer you as quickly as possible to the shops where they get a commission. Touts are a bit of a pain now in Male’ and you should not have any qualms about ignoring them.
Having said that, shopping is rewarding here. On the one hand, it is probably the most convenient place in South Asia to buy quality electonic goods, watches and cameras, while on the other hand there is a good selection of tourist souvenirs worth haggling for. After a history here of at least eight hundred years the trade in turtle shell products is now illegal. Any that you see in the shops will be from old stock. The two largest souvenir specialists are Najaah Art Place and Souvenirs. There is also friendly and trust worthy places worth singling out amongst the many.