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Things to do in Male

Everybody believes that the best things to do in the Maldives are on the islands, the resorts.

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The first thing you hear when anyone tells you about Male is that there is nothing to do in Male. Everybody knows that the best things to do in the Maldives are on the islands, the resorts.

Please note that this is not a blow by blow tourist guide, for somthing like that you're better off consulting an article like this. If you're looking for what it feels like to take a stroll through the streets, doing nothing much over a day or so, read on. 

Wrong. Male is a city with many sights and attractions. Depending on, of course, what you consider to be attractive. It has the highest concentration of Maldivians in the whole of the atolls. It is dense, but surprisingly well organized.

I’d definitely recommend at least a day walking around, eating the street food and talking to the people, to get a sense of the city before you rush off to those idyllic white beaches.

First time we landed there it was between ferries. We had two hours to kill and chose to walk around to see what we would find. First thing that caught our eyes was a Bank of Ceylon branch.

If you’ve been keeping at least half an ear out for the news, you’d have heard of the political turmoil in the Dives. Former President Nasheed was deposed and is now in exile, reportedly in Sri Lanka. After that, things started spiraling even further down and former president Gayoum was also jailed, by his own brother, who is the president now. Nasheed has become a fashionable symbol of democracy and liberation, and signs of protest can be found everywhere in the city.

Islamic extremism is also on the rise and religious fanatics are beginning to have an increasing sway in public life. An interesting story I heard dates back to the tsunami, the Maldives being so small, the wave in most cases swept right over the islands, and the devastation was significant.

Religious leaders took the opportunity to cast the disaster as a punishment from God and urged the population towards greater religiosity. This is especially visible in the number of women who wear the hijab today. A friend was telling me how before the tsunami, in school, girls wearing the hijab would usually be a minority, today it is entirely the other way around.

Male has some interesting spots to chill at. If you want to drink expensive (but really good) coffee and read Kinfolk magazine I suggest Meraki, a seemingly low-key but pretty famous coffee shop.

I also at some point ended up at a place which sold kottu, finding out that kottu is in fact quite a popular dish in Male. Probably a Sri Lankan export.

The street food on Maldives is epic, especially so on Addu atoll, a place I visited a while back. You can find spicy gulha in shops everywhere. And if you’re looking for a cheaper meal fix you can always find a little kadey that caters to white and/or blue collar workers for some solid local fare.

There’s a lot going on on the streets. What passes for normal in the Dives become cultural quirks as you consume it through the gaze of the mesmerized aesthetic consumer.

Posters in Divehi, all ripped up and torn apart, posters for local horror movies, decorations at barbershops, advertisements for Maldivian Idol contestants, political graffiti, and ten shops out of twelve with the word ’shoe’ on their signboards in one street.

Finding a place to stay can be a tad tricky if you don’t want to spend big bucks because Male is notoriously expensive. We tried couch surfing and had great success. Ended up staying with Adler, a Spanish pilot here to navigate sea-planes, who insisted that the Maldives is the only ‘real’ piloting experience one can get in an era of increasingly computer-controlled aircraft.

Some friends came over in the night and we made dinner, and the next day we hung out in the city. The two of us slept on one couch and it was very comfortable.

If you get tired of walking around in Male you can also relax in one of the quaint artificial parks with plastic grass that looks remarkably real.

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