Here’s the thing you need to know about Male’. It’s tiny. And overcrowded. In fact, it tops the list of overcrowded cities in the world. But if you look past the ‘concrete jungle’ of buildings Male’ is so famous for having, in the midst of chaos and mayhem, you will see bits and pieces of history and beauty that, when put together, create something worth the visit. For years, I’ve marveled at these sculptures at my own convenience, only to find that I keep going back to these spots whenever I need a timeout from my busy life.
The Usual Attractions
There’s a list of places any tourist on an excursion is guided to in Male’. It’s a rite of passage for anyone who sets foot in Male’ in tourist shoes. The Friday Mosque or Hukuru Miskiy is one of the first places everyone visits. Built in 1656, the mosque stands in ovation to the conversion to Islam. A coral stone sculpture, this building has Quran inscriptions hand carved intricately into a wall, allowing people a glimpse into the past. The graveyard and shrines that surround the mosque date back hundreds of years; and stand, in the middle of a busy city, a living reminder of our past. The ‘Munnaaru’ is the minaret of the Hukuru Miskiy and attracts a number of tourists on an average day.The ‘Medhu Ziyaaraiy’, just across the road from the ‘Munnaaru’ is the shrine of Abu-al Barakath Yusuf al Barbaree, the Moroccan scholar believed to have brought Islam to the Maldivian shores and is also a must-see in the city.
The Sultan Park was once part of the Palace garden grounds, when Maldives was still a monarchy. In fact, one of the Queen’s quarters’ still stands intact in the park and was for some time used as the National Museum. Even though the park has lost much of its glamor over the years, the landmark still holds sentimental value and attracts visitors every day. In fact, just past the old museum/Queen’s quarters’ is my favorite spot; a stack of stones that make a good spot to sit and chill in the evening.
More Interesting Attractions
The Islamic Centre is just a few feet away and stands in remembrance of Bodu Thakurufaanu, the national hero who saved Maldives from Portuguese invaders who ruled over the nation for 17 years. It is a beautiful sight at sunset. The ‘Theemuge’ was the former Presidential Palace in the Maldives. Housing the Supreme Court of Maldives, the ‘Theemuge’ attracts a lot of intrigued on lookers. The Dharubaaruge is no less charming. Built in the 1990’s for a SAARC Summit, Dharubaaruge hosts a lot of different events, from weddings to school functions to Independence Day Ceremonies, the building is your to-go place for events.
My Kinda Spots
If you’re looking for a little timeout to just sit back and relax, there’s a number of places you and your friends can visit in Male’. The ‘neru mathi’ is a favorite among many group of friends, including mine, to go and sit in the evening or at night. With the sea surrounding you, a good view of Hulhule’ or Male’, let the sound of waves crashing around you drown in the laughter of your friends. The jetty areas on the west of the island with its tetrapod rocks is a cool spot for a sunset selfie if you feel like it. If you’re into star gazing, you might get lucky and witness a meteor shower at the T.Jetty near the Vilingili ferry terminal; just make sure you sit away from the street lights.
Sports & Food
For those who love swimming, there’s a swimming track near STELCO; a personal favorite to a quarter of the population on weekends as people of all ages gather to enjoy a dip or two. But if you’re into water sports, like surfing, the ‘Raalhugandu’ is the ultimate place to be every day. For those who enjoy indoor sports, there are a few cafés that have pool tables and dart boards.
My friends and I absolutely love food. Luckily for us, Male’ has quite a number of restaurants and cafés that offer good food. Whether it is Maldivian food you crave, or continental, you will always find eateries that live up to your expectations. I have a few personal favorites myself; Jade Bistro being the top of the list.
Home Sweet Home
For a city, Male’ is exactly what it ought to be. It is loud with a lot of traffic and you will always find people on the roads. But those rare hours at night or early morning, if you care to talk a walk through the streets, you witness the most beautiful sunrises and a sense of serenity you will never forget. The roads might be dusty, the traffic might be bad; but for what it’s worth, Male’ is still home.