The Male Rundown
A surefire way to convince a skeptic of some inconvenient truths about the environment: come to the Maldives, a tiny archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean of over 1,000 coral islands in a double chain of 26 atolls. If water levels rise at their current pace over the next century, the lowest country on the planet, indisputable paradise that it is, could well disappear one island at a time.
The prospect of the Maldives sinking permanently into the Indian Ocean has prompted current President Mohamed Nasheed to propose some drastic, outside-the-box measures, including financing the purchase of land in Australia, India and Sri Lanka with tourism revenues. President Nasheed’s creative passion and refusal to allow his people to become “climate refugees” without a fight, epitomised by an underwater cabinet session in 2009, has won him numerous international accolades and, for the Maldives, a boost in profile and tourism.
Given all this, now would be a good time to holiday on a resort atoll in the Maldives and, indeed, visit the incomparable capital of Male. From the sky, as you descend toward the floating international airport, the city looks surreal. Buildings press right up against the edges of the tiny, quasi-pentagonal island, practically spilling into the sea. Assuredly, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Within Male, vibrant life and a city grid easily navigable on foot in a single afternoon. A few bustling markets, crowded “short eats” stalls and, in the nicer cafes and restaurants, the movers and shakers of Maldivian society, gossiping and perhaps plotting what to do when the water rises evermore.
Male’s Top 10
10. Tsunami Monument graces the southeast corner of the island, close to Henveiru Park.
5. Masjid-al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam, Male’s large Islamic Centre, houses the Grand Friday Mosque and can accommodate 5,000 worshippers at a time.
9. Rasmee Dhandu Stadium is the national stadium of the Maldives and hosts the occasional cricket and football match.
4. Independence Square is the pulse point of Male and de facto congregation spot for political demonstrations, parades and festivals.
8. National Art Gallery is a small space and peerless patron of Maldivian art.
3. Sultan Park contains the old Sultan’s palace and former National Museum.
7. New Fish Market is a visceral introduction to the vital tuna trade in Male.
2. Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque) is the most venerable mosque and landmark in the city. The temple dates back to 1656 and has some remarkable lacquer work inside.
6. Male Market is not only hawker bliss and a good place to stock up on provisions. The market is also a terrific place to observe daily life in the Maldives capital.
1. Maldives National Museum, as the primary cultural archive in the Maldives, is well worth a look. The museum’s new home, built in 2010, was financed by the Chinese government.
- Independence Square – This is a small park with a huge Maldivian flag. This is where all the political demonstrations take place, so there’s a strong police presence.
- Sultan Park and National Museum – This is the last remainder of the Sultan’s palace. This has all the old royal memorabilia including dusty photographs.
- Friday Mosque – This has a unique structure with elaborate Islamic carvings. It dates back to the 1600s.
- National Museum – This is a modern museum with interesting exhibitions of Male history and culture.
- Mulee Aage – This is one of the historic sites of Male. It is a great place for a day trip and photos.
Male Art & Culture
- Islamic Centre – This is the largest mosque in the Maldives, with a huge golden dome.
- Maldives National Defence HQ – This is not exactly a tourist site but definitely a strong presence and reminder of Male’s previous iron-fisted governing forces.
- Museum of Contemporary Art – This is dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from across Australia and around the world.
- Azmaara Spa – This offers a unique experience in massage and relaxation therapy.
- President’s Residence – This is historically a centre for political activity.
- Male Market – This is the local market where vendors are eager to make a sale. Best place for souvenirs.
- Fish Market – This is right where the fishing boats dock; the fish here is guaranteed fresh.
- State Trading Organization – Supermarket mostly offering goods from India and Singapore.
- Majeedhee -- The place to go for clothing, electronics and jewellery. Best time to go is in the evening after 7 pm.
- Local Markets – Sell traditional snacks, fish, nuts, smoked fish and dried fish, and also traditional Male thuda kunu mats.
Gay & Lesbian Male
- Islamic Society – Male and the Maldives adhere to Islamic law and as such homosexuality is illegal and punishable by a jail sentence.
- Gay Community – There is a discreet underground gay community in Male.
- Gay Bars – A number of gay bars are also popular hangouts in Male. Be restrained and moderate in public and you’ll be fine.
- Hulhumale Island – Popular getaway for a beach outing with great views of the harbour.
- Whale Submarine – Get a ride on a real submarine and watch whales in action underwater. Not to be missed!
- Artificial Beach – Good spot for great surfing, although the waves can be dangerous.
- Male Atoll – Best place in Male for surfing.
- Male Harbour Bridge Climb – Some people walk across it; others choose to climb to the top.
- Join the Male scuba diving aficionados for some of the best scuba diving in the world.
- Enjoy the sun while surfing at Male Atoll.
- Snorkelling is another Maldivian favourite. Snorkelling equipment is easily available everywhere.
- Dolphin and whale watching is at its best in Male.
- Get in some fishing at any one of Male’s great fishing spots.
Male crams just over 100,000 people on a precarious parcel of land in the Indian Ocean that barely tops 5.7 km²To put it another way, the island city is about half the size of Richmond Park in London.
As a result, visitors can zigzag the entire breadth of the city, rather unmindfully, in a day. Important thoroughfares include Boduthakurufaanu Magu, which circles the outer boundary of the island. Ameenee Magu and Majeedhee Magu run east-west, each about 1.7 km long, across the entire width of the tiny island. Izzuddeen Magu, Chaandanee Magu and Sosun Magu complete the north-south portion of the Male grid.
Male Eat & Drink
Traditional Maldivian cuisine leans heavily and humbly on the ocean’s bounty, namely tuna. Garudiya is the national dish and consists of a clear fish broth, simply eaten with rice, flatbread or breadfruit. Aside from tuna, ubiquitous ingredients in the Maldivian bowl include coconut, taro and screwpine. “Short eats”, a holdover from Sri Lankan snack culture, figures prominently at city restaurants and lunch counters.
South Beach (Boduthakurufaanu Magu) serves savoury snacks day and night by the airport ferry terminal.
Dawn Café (Haveeree Higun) is an exquisite lunch spot near Male’s busy fish market.
Seagull Café (Chandanee Magu & Fareedhee Magu) is a superb chillout spot with lip-smacking sandwiches and gelato.
Raanbaa (Shaheed Ali Hingun) is open late and has a menu that covers a spectacular variety of cuisines.
Sala Thai (Ameer Ahmed Magu) serves sumptuous bowls of soup, curry and noodles in a bright, beautiful room.
Symphony (Athamaa Goalhi) is a solid choice for veg-friendly Indian fare.
Mugalai (Athama Palace Hotel) has the best tandoor in Male.
Irudhashu Hotaa (Filigas Hingun) is a short eats institution in the capital.
Shell Beans (Boduthakurufaanu Magu) is just the place for handheld food on the go.
Aïoli (Lotus Goalhi) is a swish oasis with the most upscale menu and digs in the city.
The Maldivian events calendar revolves largely around Islamic tradition and custom, with a few national holidays thrown in for good measure.
Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan with three days of prayer and revelry in the capital.
Maldives Independence Day, on July 26, commemorates the official dissolution of the British Protectorate and formation of the country in 1965. A day of mass celebration in Male.
Martyrs’ Day and National Day both commemorate momentous events associated with the archipelago’s violent seizure by a fleet of Portuguese ships in the 16th century.
Huravee Day celebrates the liberation of the Maldives from South Indian forces in the mid-18th century.
Victoru Day, on November 3, commemorates the failure of a violent insurrection and coup in 1988.
The Maldives Breakout Festival, held in mid-October, is a paragon showcase of new musical talent in the country.
When To Go
Male and the Maldives have a tropical wet and dry climate, with two distinct seaons. The long wet season lasts from May to December, throughout which the vast majority of the city’s annual precipitation (1,600 mm on average) falls. The month of June receives upwards of 300 mm of rain alone.
Annual temperatures in the Maldives capital remain predictably stable between 73°F (23°C) and 88°F (31°C) for the year. There is miniscule variation in temperature from one month to the next. This obviously plays a huge part in the archipelago’s incessant appeal with international tourists.
What To Miss
Male is that rarest of tropical islands that is completely chockablock with urban congestion and devoid, entirely, of palm trees and sand. In this regard the capital of the Maldives cleaves prospective travellers into two groups. Those that stick around do so for the inherent curiousity factor - how can this wee island subsist and bustle so mightily? - and complete immersion in the cultural, social and political ins and outs of the diminutive archipelago nation.
Those that jet off to atoll resorts, however, do so because ultimately, there is not much to see and do in Male for the average visitor. The city functions as the political and economic nerve centre of the Maldives but on the whole, is little more than a springboard to the tourist islets that dot the archipelago. The incessant departures of sea planes, speedboats and private yachts from the international airport tells the story.
Male International Airport floats next to Male as part of Hulhule island. The runway and airport support apparatus occupy the entire island. The vast majority of visitors to the Maldives pass through Male International, though tiny Gan Airport in Addu Atoll is now up to international standards and currently welcomes a regular flight from Hong Kong. Male International serves destinations like London-Gatwick, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Rome-Fiumicino, Colombo, Dubai, Moscow-Sheremetyevo and Singapore.
From the airport, speedboats and sea planes ferry tourists to various resort atolls up and down the archipelago. It takes a mere 15-20 minutes by public ferry to get to Male from Hulhule.
Once in Male proper, you can easily walk the city in no time. If in a hurry, taxis will be more than happy to transport you through the city streets for a small fee. Bicycle rentals abound and offer a more leisurely way to see the national capital.
The Republic of Maldives is a peculiar island nation in the Indian Ocean incredibly desirable as a paradisal holiday destination for the affluent. Since the development of mass tourism began in 1972, the country's coral islands, or atolls, have been heralded for their spectacular and unusual beauty. As a result, the capital city of Malé has gone through a rapid transformation.
From above, Malé is quite a sight. The city's dense urban area literally takes up almost every square mile of the island it inhabits, North Malé Atoll. Though the city is more often than not a mere springboard to more tranquil Maldives confines, in the form of upscale beach resorts, it does contain some notable attractions. A Muslim nation, many landmarks relate to Islam in some way or another, from the National Museum to Grand Friday Mosque. The latter can hold up to 5,000 people and is just one component of the architecturally unique Islamic Centre.
As the capital city of a Muslim nation, Malé is devoid of clubs and bars. Nightlife in the Maldives is restricted to the resort atolls.
The weather in subtropical Maldives is hot throughout the year, with scant variation in temperature from one month to the next. In fact, the mercury rarely dips below 25°C. The wet monsoon season runs from May to November.
56 hotels in Male
Hotel Jen is a charming retreat that offers comfortable accommodations and ideal location next to must-visit destinations in Maldives. Vacationers can walk around Fishermen's Park, relive Maldives'... More
Travellers looking to enjoy a holiday in the Maldives find suitable lodging at Hotel UI Inn. This value-for-money hotel in North Male Atoll offers comfortable accommodations and easy access to the... More
Jumeirah Vittaveli Maldives Hotel is a luxury accommodation that offers opulent amenities such as the Talise Spa where holidaymakers can enjoy pampering treatments and rejuvenating massages.... More
Surrounded by lush vegetation and sparkling beach waters, Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi Resort North Male Atoll is a serene holiday resort for vacationers visiting North Male Atoll. Aside from... More
Bringing you a magical holiday experience in a tropical splendour, the Royal Island Resort and Spa is a paradise in the heart of the Indian Ocean. Be surrounded by beautiful Banyan trees and lush... More
Visit the gem in the Maldives capital and enjoy a grand tropical getaway by staying at the plush Paradise Island Resort & Spa Male. Holidaymakers enjoy the stunning beach surrounded by beautiful... More
Anantara Veli Resort And Spa Maldives is a distinctive resort located at South Male Atoll, a true paradise island. Guests are in for a treat as all activities guarantee fun and adventure. Enjoy the... More
Stay at Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa South Male Atoll and get ready for a restful and wonderful time. Its highlights include over-water swimming pools and signature Anantara spas. The resort hotel... More
Escape to a tranquil tropical paradise in Maldives by booking a stay in the contemporary accommodations of Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma South Male Atoll. Vacationers at this South Male Atoll resort... More