Deep Blue Atoll: Maldives
Situated roughly in the middle of the Maldives, Male is both the country’s capital city as well as its most populous island. Home to nearly one third of the entire population of the Maldives and squeezed into an area of less than 6sq. km., Male is one of the most compact, and arguably, charming capital cities in the world.
It’s long been known as the “King’s Island”, thanks to its geographic position at the heart of the Maldives – a moniker that was doubly true over the centuries when the island was home to the country’s long line of Sultans.
Today it’s home to the country’s international airport, making it an obligatory stop for anyone visiting the Maldives. And while many tourists use it merely as an access point for the country’s other 1,189 islands, Male is a fascinating hive of activity in its own right, buzzing with urban life in its open-air markets, many cafes, and narrow alleys and shops – something that contrasts strongly with most visitors’ preconceived notions of what to expect in the Maldives.
Thanks to its compact size, the city’s a mass of colourful buildings and alleys, almost all of which boast stunning turquoise sea views in any direction.
ATTRACTIONS IN MALE
Some of Male’s most famous sites include its mosques and palaces, which thanks to its compact geography are all located within a few minutes’ walk of each other in the vicinity of Jumhooree Maidan, aka Republic Square.
Dating back to 1656, the Old Friday Mosque is one of Male’s oldest and most visited sites. Its walls are adorned with traditional Maldivian lacquerwork and carved frescoes, the most famous of which commemorates the arrival of Islam in the Maldives back in the 12th century.
Open to modestly-dressed visitors outside of prayer times, it’s situated just a short walk away from Male’s largest mosque, the Grand Friday Mosque – whose golden dome has become of the city’s best-known landmarks.
Located just nearby is the Presidential Palace, or Mulee aage. Originally built as a palace for the last sultan of the Maldives a century ago, it’s situated near the aptly named Sultan’s Park, the site of an even earlier palace, along with the National Museum of the Maldives – which while modest in size, is home to several ancient Buddhist artefacts, carved from coral and sandstone, and dating back to the islands’ pre-Islamic past.
Several airlines fly to the Maldives directly from Singapore, including Singapore Airlines and TigerAir, with a flight time of around 4.5 hours. Other airlines like Sri Lankan Airlines and China Eastern also fly to Male via Colombo. Within the Maldives, various local carriers – including national carrier Maldivian Airlines – services various inter-island routes from Male.
To get to Sirru Fen Fushi, you can take a 55-minute seaplane ride from Male or a domestic flight to neighbouring island of Hanimaadhoo, followed by a 50-minute speedboat transfer. For more information about Sirru Fen Fushi, including availability and offers, visit www.sirrufenfushi.com.
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