Located in Kaafu Atoll, just a few minutes away from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Male’ is the capital city of the Maldives. A bustling concrete jungle of pastel colored high rise buildings with narrow streets populated by a third of the country’s entire population. City life is not entirely like most urban centers around the world. It is a fusion of cosmopolitan living with a generous dose of laid back island spirit.
The island itself is extremely small, just 5 km2 in area, making it one of the smallest capital cities in the world. Visiting the city of Male’ will give you a glimpse into the real Maldives, without the frills and glamor which you experience in the resorts. It gives you an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the destination and experience it in its true nature. Share a moment with the locals, and find out things you will never find on a guide book. A maze of narrow streets and alleys dominate the entire city. Barely big enough for two vehicles to pass through. Despite the busy streets, the compact nature of the city gives visitors a chance to get close to everything. To see the city of Male’ in a more intimate angle. As you walk along, and if you listen closely, you will hear the sounds of Maldivian life. The sound of school bells, a conversation between buddies at the marketplace, scooters weaving through the streets rushing to get to work or to pick up their kids from school, and the call to prayer from the local mosques. By taking a moment to truly listen, and to see everything, it helps you to put together a clearer idea of Maldivian city life.
Male’ is not exactly a city you can drop in and wander around. Not if you don’t want to miss out on some of the greatest and the best the city has to offer. The maze of city streets and buildings can sometimes get confusing. It’s best to read about it, and plan where to go before you visit. Or, you could always take the easier option of hiring a tour guide, which will ensure that you cover all the major tourist spots, but may not necessarily guide you off the beaten path for something special and unique. On Travel Diaries, we will try to provide you with juicy secrets which awaits within Male’ city, and guide you to some of our top picks of must see’s and must do’s.
Hukuru Miskiyy (Friday Mosque)
Built in 1656 by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar, Hukuru Miskiyy is the oldest mosque in the country. This elaborately decorated mosque features some of the best coral carvings in the world. A true icon of traditional Maldivian craftsmanship. The walls of the mosque were built using coral blocks and the sanctums are divided using heavy wooden doors carved with Arabic calligraphy. Apart from coral carvings, door frames and window frames as well as the beams were crafted using a variety of wood, including red wood, teak and sandal wood.
The compound adjacent to the mosque includes the graveyard of past rulers, sultans, heroes and nobles. The coral tombstones and mausoleums feature spectacular craftsmanship, with elaborate designs in par with the majesty of the mosque itself.
Overlooking the Hukuru Miskiyy is a squat minaret, locally known as the ‘Munnaaru’. This structure was built just one year after the construction of Hukuru Miskiyy by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar. A classic example of Islamic architecture, this minaret was used to summon the faithful to prayer.
The Islamic Centre
Built in 1984 by President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, Masjid-al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam is the largest mosque in the Maldives, accommodating over 5,000 worshippers within its main prayer hall and is also considered one of the largest mosques in South Asia. An iconic architectural landmark in Male’, the golden dome of this mosque dominates the skyline of the city alongside its impressive minaret which served as the tallest tower in the Maldives for some time. Strikingly modern in appearance, the mosque was built with white marble accompanied by minimalistic décor infused with traditional Islamic architecture. The interior walls feature a wide array of breathtaking Arabic calligraphy and intricate wood carvings, adding to the grandeur of the mosques architecture.
Visiting hours are between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm excluding prayer times. If you intend to go inside the mosque, you must ensure that you are dressed appropriately. Men must wear long trousers and women must wear a long skirt or dress, covering their shoulders and hair.
The National Museum
The National Museum was inaugurated on the 26th of July 2010 by President Mohamed Nasheed. The building itself was financed by the Chinese government as part of a UNESCO project and was gifted to the Maldivian government upon completion.
The National Museum houses relics, artifacts and archeological findings from the medieval times during the Buddhist era to royal possessions from the time of the sultanates. Some of the most fascinating pieces include the five faced statues and the statue of the Hindu water god Makara. Other featured items include furniture and personal artifacts of past sultans of the country, giving visitors a glimpse of a long bygone era.
The National Museum opens from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday to Thursday. Admission tickets are available at the entrance from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm in the evening.
Tourists: Adults Rf50, Children Rf15
Maldivians: Adults Rf20, Children Rf5