June 2018


Unconventional Malé
June 2018




The Islamic Centre with its glorious golden dome is the largest and popular mosque in Malé

The capital of Maldives beats as the cultural and metropolitan heart of the country, with a distinctive character and much to discover.


Words: Razan Kader


Malé is a bustling city, the isle that gave the archipelago its name "island of Malé" - Maldives, and its cultural capital. Unlike the other isles of the country, which have a blissful sense of peace and calm, the capital city throbs with life, culture, daily activity and a friendly populous. In fact, it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.


Although Malé is mainly used as the transit point to the otherisles from the airport island Hulhule, the city itself offers distinctive experiences. One can walk around the entire city in an hour.


The origins of the people of Maldives are linked to Sri Lanka and India. Islam was introduced in 1153 AD by Al-Hafiz Abul Yoosuf Al-Barbari of Morocco and it has shaped the identity and culture of the country. Medhu Ziyaaraiy, the tomb of the Moroccan religious scholar, is located near the Malé Hukuru Miskiy or Old Friday Mosque, the country's oldest and also the most ornate mosque. This was built in 1658 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar I. It is said to have been built on the location of a masjid commissioned by the first Muslim Sultan of Maldives, Mohamed Bin Abdullah. Constructed mainly using coral and with a round blue-and-white minaret with an iconic design, the Old Friday Mosque is one of the city's most beautiful attractions and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walls and doors are intricately carved with Islamic calligraphy, while the detailed lacquer-work is greatly admired. Meanwhile, the Islamic Centre, the largest mosque in the Maldives is an architectural landmark with a remarkable golden dome.

The Islamic Centre, the largest mosque in the Maldives is an architectural landmark with a remarkable golden dome.


The Sultan Park and Museum, is another cultural icon in Malé, with a remarkable historic legacy. It was once the Royal Palace grounds, and the only remaining wing of the ancient palace has been converted to a Museum showcasing the finery of Maldives' royalty such as thrones and palanquins.


Westwards of the Independence Square is the bustling Malé Fish Market, a maze of activity where buyers and sellers bargain over the biggest, freshest and best catch of the day. From the catch of groupers, sea bass, red snappers and barracuda, the main appeal is for the yellowfin tuna and skipjack. The Malé Local Market, a few blocks away from the fish market, exudes a different atmosphere, one of calm and colour. The stalls here are stacked with colourful locally grown vegetables and fruits, yams, nuts, breadfruit chips, homemade sweets and pickles. Smoked and dried fish can be purchased from a complex nearby.


There are restaurants and café located across the isle, serving the best of Dhivehi cuisine made from the three main staples - coconuts, fish and starches. Mas huni, a preparation of cured tuna, onion and coconut, is typically eaten for breakfast with Roshi (flat bread). Some favourite Maldivian short eats include Gulha - ball shaped dumplings with a tuna stuffing; Masroshi - a treat made of coconut dough with a smoked tuna filling and bajiya - Maldives' own version of the samosa. Popular Dhivehi curries are Mas Riha - a fish curry eaten with steamed rice. The vegetable curries include Bashi (eggplant), Tora (sponge gourd), Barabo (pumpkin), and Muranga (moringa).

From the catch of groupers, sea bass, red snappers and barracuda, the main appeal is for the yellowfin tuna and skipjack.


Maldivian sweets are derived from ingredients available in the country. Bodibai is a dessert made of either rice, breadfruit or sago with coconut cream and sugar, while Foni Boakiba is a favourite variation of the rice pudding. Hakuru Folhi are delicious coconut pancakes, while Zileybi is the Madivian version of jalebi flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and pandan.


The Artificial Beach in Malé is a popular hangout, which recreates the heavenly white sandy beaches that Maldives is known for in the city. This is the ideal place for an afternoon swim, water sports and a stroll at sunset. Many leisurely musical and cultural events are hosted at this location.


For an unconventional experience in the Maldives, discover all that Malé has to offer.

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    The docks of the Hulhule island, where the Malé International Airport is located

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    Malé Hukuru Miskiy or Malé Friday Mosque is an ancient mosque

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    Purchase the freshest catch of the day at the Malé Fish Market

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    A visit to Maldives is incomplete without purchasing Maldive fish

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    Colourful display of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Malé local market

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    Enjoy a Maldivian breakfast – Mas Huni (onion and coconut) with Roshi (flat bread)

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    Delicious Gulha, dumplings stuffed with Tuna

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    The palm fringed, crescent shaped, Artificial Beach in Malé overlooking cobalt waters

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