The Maldives beckoned and we were keen on a romantic getaway by the sea. Nothing like the sea and sand to help de-stress from the rat race of life.
Male is a tiny island, densely crowded with motorbikes, busy business men, stern-faced policemen, harried hawkers and neatly uniformed school children. This is the modern, mercantile face of the Maldives that few tourists bother to glance at. Tall thin brightly painted buildings are surrounded by the most wondrously turquoise sea all around. This is the centre of the Maldives, the actual engine driving its economic progress and centre where all the politics happens.
We found that Male’ is interesting to visit mainly for a taste of traditional Maldivian life, more than for the usual touristy things to see and do. Male’ is pleasant and pleasingly quirky with its alcohol-free bars and restaurants which jostle with its incredible array of shops and lively markets and the general bustling noise of a capital is very much present. We enjoyed the real feel for the Maldives, and thoroughly enjoyed meet its people and tried to experience their way of life.
The Hukuru Miskiiy or the Old Friday Mosque is the oldest mosque in the country, dating from 1656. An ugly corrugated-iron mesh covers its beautiful coral-stone walls. These are intricately carved with patterns and an intricate Arabic script. The interiors will elicit gasps of pleasure from visitors for its fine lacquer work and elaborate woodcarvings.
As history has it, the mosque was built on the foundations of an old temple that faced west to the setting sun, and not as is usual northwest towards Mecca. As a result, the worshippers have to face a designated corner of the mosque when they pray. There is a striped carpet, laid at an angle, which shows them the correct direction to face.
The solid, round, blue-and-white tower of the munnaaru - or the squat minaret, overlooks the Friday Mosque. Dating back to 1675, the exterior of this minaret still looks fresh and new.
An excursion which is different and fun if you are with kids is the Whale Submarine. The name is misleading as, this is not a submarine for whale watching, but a submarine for looking at life on a reef. Divers do not get to dive and view underwater life from this sub. The submarine departs from a point off the coast you have to get a boat either from the airport or Jetty No 1. You are picked up by boat from both about 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of the submarine. Always ring ahead and book a place, so the boat can pick you up. At the ‘Whale House’ you pay your money, have a cool drink and board the sub.
And for one night if you want to splurge on a posh meal, go to Aïoli which is the sleekest restaurant in Male. A large restaurant, it has the feel of a boutique hotel, all decked out all in dark wood and cream furnishings. The menu is just as fabulous as the ambience where you can choose from Wagyu rib-eye steak, spicy Aïoli crab and Chilli prawn linguini, all served up on a great outdoor balcony under the stars or in their large dining rooms.