Not only is Maldives unique in its topographical beauty, its history is also as colourful and complex. Inhabited from as early as the 5th Century BCE by people from Sri Lanka and India, people in Maldives were originally Buddhists but adopted Islam in 1153 CE. This is mainly attributed to the many North African and Middle East travellers who visited the island while on their trading routes.
Besides the religions of the people, Maldivians also inherited ancient mythologies that are passed by mouth through the many generations. Hence, the fusion of these myths and the religions of Maldives has created a rich and vibrant culture that are prominent in the way of life of the people here.
Furthermore, Maldives was colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British up until their independence in 1965. This island was also badly hit by the Tsunami in 2004 with hundreds killed and suffered serious damage to the infrastructures of the many islands.
The beauty of Maldives was discovered by outsiders around the 1970s and the tourism industry has skyrocketed since. It now accounts for 28% of the country’s GDP and has bolstered much of the economy of Maldives. With only 2 resorts in 1972, the island currently has over 137 resorts, 151 safari vessels and 526 guesthouses across 200 inhabited islands.
Due to the importance of the tourism industry, the Maldivian government has placed great emphasis on ensuring promotion and maintaining upkeep of the island nation. Some of these initiatives include not requiring visitors to apply for a visa before arrival and the many efforts in preserving the local sights and architecture.
Given the unique topography, complex history and growing tourism industry, there are many points of interest in Maldives that are enticing to visitors to this island.
Islamic Center: The largest mosque in Maldives and is located in Male. The Islamic Center boasts a large golden dome and can accommodate up to 5,000 people! The walls of this magnificent mosque is also adorned with Arabic carvings and calligraphy, making it a must visit for all tourists. It is also located near the main jetty which makes it convenient as well.
National Museum: If the history and culture of Maldives intrigue you, consider a visit to the National Museum. Located in Male, it is a great pitstop amidst visiting markets and restaurants as it also provides refuge from the outdoor heat. The museum contains a vast selection of artefacts dating back to the Buddhist era including an 11th Century coral stone head of Buddha.
Male Friday Mosque: As one of the oldest mosques in the country, this mosque which was built in 1658 is still currently being frequented by many Maldivians. Besides that, the Male Friday Mosque is also decorated with intricate carvings and beautiful decorated ceilings. Much of this mosque, including the surrounding graveyard, is built with corals and coral boulders, making it a unique architectural sight to visit.
Medhu Ziraaraiy Tomb: If you’re already visiting the Male Friday Mosque, make a stop at this tomb which is located right outside the mosque. This tomb is that of Abdul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary who was a traveler and scholar who first introduced Islam to the Maldives in 1153 CE.
Guests staying at Club Med Kani Maldives or Club Med Finolhu Villas can sign up for a special excursion to Male which covers some of these points of interest. Not only that, the excursion comes with a local guide who will share with you all the interesting history and cultures of Maldives and bring you to some of the best local markets and sights!