While Malé, Maldives is seldom on people's mind when they think of a holiday in the Maldives, it's still a fascinating place with unique geography, culture, and local attractions. This small, bustling capital city is worlds apart from the resort islands scattered across the archipelago, but it's also the best place to meet local Maldivians and to learn about their culture and lifestyle. If you want to learn more about Malé, just continue reading; you might even find yourself wanting to visit it for yourself.
History of Malé
The Maldives was first settled by Dravidian people from Ceylon and the Indian Subcontinent. It's believed that the indigenous Giraavaru people of the Maldives' Giraavaru island are the earliest settlers here and lived as fishermen. Malé island used to be a regular stop for them to clean their catch and slowly gained in popularity. When a prince from the northern subcontinent came to Malé, he was welcomed and eventually built a palace there and became its ruler.
The island city grew over the years and was reigned by kings until the abolition of the monarchy in 1968 by President Ibrahim Nasir. The city was remodelled under his rule, with only the National Museum building and the Malé Friday Mosque remaining.
Geography of Malé
Malé, Maldives is located in the Kaafu Atoll. Being the country's capital, it's also the most populous city with over 130,000 people. Although Malé is one city, administrated by the Malé City Council, it consists of the Malé central island, an airport island and two other islands. The city has a tropical climate like the rest of the country with the dry season lasting from around April to December.
Malé's main airport, the Velana International Airport is located on the nearby Hulhulé island. The two islands are connected by the Sinamalé Bridge (originally the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge), which opened on 30th August 2018. Prior to the bridge's opening, you can only travel between Malé, Hulhulé and Hulhumalé by ferry.
Economy of Malé
With tourism being the largest industry in the country, Most of Malé's economy is geared to facilitate tourism. In fact, the city has many tourist attractions and hotels of itself. Tourism accounts for more than a quarter of the country' GDP and more than 60% of its foreign exchange receipts. Most of the government tax revenue comes from import and tourism-related taxes; over 90% of it.
Things to do in Malé, Maldives
Visit The Tsunami Monument
The Tsunami Monument was built to remember the victims who perished during the 2004 tsunami, which reportedly took the lives of 102 locals and six foreigners. The tsunami caused serious damage to 57 islands around the country and greatly affected the country's tourism industry.
Visit the Friday Mosque
The Malé Friday Mosque or the Malé Hukuru Miskiy is the oldest structure in Malé. Also known as the Old Friday Mosque, it's a very ornate mosque with beautiful traditional patterns and Quranic scripts carved on many parts of its wall. It was built with coral boulders which are abundant in the archipelago.
Visit the National Museum
Along with the Friday Mosque, the National Museum, which was the residence of the last sultan is the oldest building in Malé. The museum complex is comprised of two large buildings separated by Sultan's Park, with the old National Museum housed in what remains of the former sultan's palace. The museum houses amazing artifacts from Malé's pre-Islamic era including headgear, ceremonial robes, and more. It also contains relics from throughout Malé's history. If you want to know about the history of the region, be sure to visit this national treasure.
One of the best things to do in Malé, Maldives is shopping. There are plenty of shops that offer everything from clothing to groceries. Prices are very reasonable here, making it a great place for some last-minute shopping before your flight home. For fresh local produce and ingredients, check out the Malé local market. Here, you can find various local fish including smoked and dried fish, tropical fruits, Maldives chillies, and local spices. If you want to bring a taste of Maldives back home, this is the place to go.
Malé is a unique city with an amalgamation of modern and traditional attractions. It's a great place to visit when you're in the Maldives. In fact, you should have it in your itinerary and plan to spend some time there to enjoy the local culture and food!