The intercontinental gateway to the Maldives
Male (pronounced – Mal-eh) is but one tiny dot in the Indian Ocean. Most likely, you’ll be headed for one of the myriad other coral islands and islets of this world class aquatic archipelago dubbed the ‘last paradise on Earth’. But stay awhile and you’ll discover a town that’s an intriguing and compact place to hang out, a jumble of architectural styles teeming with life.
Shopping in the Maldives can be rather restricted to your resort and island, so Malé is the perfect place to grab gifts and souvenirs. Chandhanee Magu shopping area is where visitors can purchase Maldivian crafts, reed mats, clothes and accessories, while on Majeedhee Magu there’s more of the same, plus electronic goods. Do compare prices and try haggling as many of the shops will sell the same products. For a taste of how the locals live, try a visit to one of the markets – a fish market runs daily. Or stop by one of the vibrant textile shops where local women come to have clothes made.
Food & Drink
If you get sick of dining at your resort, Malé’s diverse range of restaurants will cater to all tastes – Thai, Indian, even Italian, can all be found here. However, alcohol is banned, so this isn’t the place for a boozy night out. Order a traditional breakfast of mashuni roshi (tuna and shredded coconut tortilla) from the roadside sai hotaas (teashops) where the locals eat, for a taste of local cuisine. For more formal dining, try Aïoli (H Orchidmaage), where the menu of seafood, curry and steaks manages to surprise with its sophistication. The Olive Garden (Fareedhee Magu) will sate hungry travellers, serving big pizzas at bargain prices, while The Sea House (Boduthakurufaanu Magu) has ocean views to delight during your meal.
In honour of the islands gaining independence from Britain in 1965, Independence Day sees proud citizens take to the streets of Malé in celebration. Watch the military march, and in the evening join in with the crowds at the finale held at Republic Square.
The end of Ramadan is eagerly celebrated with three days of festivities. Copious amounts of food are consumed as locals gather to feast with friends, special donations are made for the poor, and celebratory dances go on into the night.
Celebrate the Maldives’ liberation from South Indian attackers in 1752 with games, dances and the best of Maldivian food.
Children march in parades, traditional songs are sung, and dance troupes perform on Malé’s streets on Republic Day. This is one of the biggest events on the calendar, with hundreds of spectators lining the streets.
This annual event pays tribute to the important economic contribution of the local fishing industry. With opportunities to eat freshly caught tuna and mackerel and see how the fishermen survive, it’s a chance to get a glimpse into the real Maldives.
The Maldives is known for its fantastic (and expensive) selection of resorts but choose carefully – picking a resort often means committing to one island for your whole stay as island-hopping is not possible. At the top end, couples can hide away in Bond-style luxury at the Huvafen Fushi (PO Box 2017) where the vibe is dressed-down glam. Just 20 minutes from the airport, mid-range hotel Baros (PO Box 2015) offers great diving at a nearby reef. The capital Malé is more a transit hub for visitors en route to other islands in the Maldives, but if staying here try Sala Boutique Hotel (Buruneege), where the on-site Thai restaurant regularly garners high praise.