Male © Shazwan
Malé is the bustling capital of the Maldives,
often overlooked by tourists who head straight for the country's
numerous resort islands. However, the packed city offers a glimpse
of another side of the popular destination and is representative of
everyday life in the Maldives.
Far from the tranquillity of the five-star resorts
that pepper the islands, Malé moves at a brisk pace as the
centre of government and commerce in the Maldives.
Brightly-coloured buildings, business suits, and bazaars rather
than beaches are the order of the day, and the independent
travellers that do take a holiday in Malé can sample
cultural attractions like markets, mosques, and museums in lieu of
jungle hikes and watersports.
The best shopping in the Maldives is undoubtedly in
Malé, a city crowded with shops and markets. Most of the
souvenir shops that cater to tourists are found in the business
district, conveniently located close to the jetty where travellers
arrive from the airport ferries. Another popular shopping district
in Malé is the Singapore Bazaar at the top end of
Chaandhanee Magu, so-called because many of the products are
imported from Singapore.
Most of the outdoor markets in Malé are filled
with fruits and vegetables rather than souvenirs, but it is
enjoyable to spend a few hours browsing the colourful stalls.
Though most countries' customs agents will confiscate coconuts and
papayas, it is possible to buy some wonderful local spices, which
are a popular souvenir from the Maldives.
Getting around in Malé is relatively easy due
to its small size. It is possible to walk around the entire city in
about an hour, and most of the major attractions are clustered near
each other on the north shore, about a 15-minute walk from the
jetty. There is no public transportation in Malé, but taxis
are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.
A predominantly Muslim city, the bars and restaurants
in Malé are largely alcohol-free. The city is far from a
nightlife hotspot. However, a holiday in Malé is richly
rewarding for travellers looking to see the true face of life in