A small island, crowded with motorcycles and cars, bustling businessmen and pedlars, Male (sometimes spelled as Male') is the modern, mercantile face of the Maldives. The capital city is the largest island in terms of population, infrastructure and development in the country. Although geographically located in Kaafu Atoll, Male is officially not considered a part of it, but rather administered separately; three more islands, namely Villimale, Hulhumale and Hulhule, make up the capital city.
Visitors often choose to stay in a resort in the Maldives, but there are many reasons why a stay in the island paradise's capital city is highly recommended. The bustling island is home to roughly one third of the total population of the Maldives, and it has a lot to offer, including cheap accommodation and lodging.
Sight-seeing without a tour guide would not be difficult in the two square kilometre island, but it is advised to carry a map with you or rely on a map application on your smartphone at all times. The main street, known as Majeedhee Magu, runs right through the city from east to west, while Chaandhanee Magu runs across from north to south.
Get a taste of everyday Maldivian life at the fish market located on the western end of Male. You can see people bargaining over heaps and heaps of fish all day long, and snap-happy travellers will find the pier and boats in the background a good photo opportunity. You can also buy everything you need for a delicious, fresh meal from the fresh produce market, which is on the opposite of the fish market.
The new National Museum complex consists of two large buildings separated by the Sultan Park, in the old palace grounds across Medhuziyaarai Magu, inland from the gold-domed Islamic Centre. The Chinese-gifted museum offers a fascinating collection of Maldivian culture and heritage, dating from the pre-Islamic days to the rule of Islamic monarchs. The complex is a calm space where visitors can take a bit of time out from the hectic pace of Male, to relax and improve their historical and cultural knowledge.
A short distance away from Muleeaage – the official presidential residence – is the Old Friday Mosque, which was built in 1656. With its unique minaret, beautiful coral carvings and expert lacquer-works, this well-preserved mosque gives a brief account of the Maldives' conversion to Islam in mid-12th century. The tombs of national heroes and members of royalty resting in the quietness of its compound alone make the Old Friday Mosque one of the must-see historical sites in the Maldives.
Apart from the usual sight-seeing, staying in Male gives the opportunity to easily wander around the few neighbouring islands. You can travel in government-operated ferry boats to the airport island of Hulhule, Villimale or the newly developed island of Hulhumale. A few more islands in the neighbouring atolls are also reachable by day trips, but the boats are not that frequent.
Male offers visitors a wide variety of leisure activities, be it sight-seeing, relaxing or a shopping spree. Gone are the palm trees and sandy beaches that you would come across in other parts of the Maldives, but the island is interesting enough to visit for a taste of Maldivian life.