The main commercial area of Male’ is located on the northern waterfront of Male’. This area is the main hub of trade and is a hive of activity through out the day. The waterfront and the by-lanes in the area are crowded with shops stocked with a variety of goods. Also in the area are the Male’ Fish Market and the Local Market selling a range of local produce. While some ‘dhonis’ from all corners of the country unload dried fish, fresh fruits and vegetables from the atolls others are seen loading everything from foodstuffs to construction materials. The pace increases in mid-afternoon as fishing ‘dhonis’ start returning with their day’s catch. The catch, mainly tuna are carried across the road into the open-sided market and laid out on the tiled floors. As fast as the fish are brought in they are bought and taken away by men from all walks of life. The market is kept scrupulously clean, washed down each day and disinfected.
The Islamic Centre is the most vivid architectural landmark of Male’. You would see the spectacular golden dome in all its majesty dominating the skyline, as you approach Male’, from any direction. The building symbolizes the importance of Islamic religion, which had ruled all aspects of life in the country for centuries. Completed in 1984, the Centre consists of a mosque big enough for 5000 people, an Islamic library, conference hall, classrooms and offices.
The Local Market, just a block away from the Male’ Fish Market on the northern waterfront, is divided into small stalls. Here the pace is slower and the atmosphere peaceful, compared to the hectic activity in the rest of this neighborhood. Each stall is filled with a variety of local produce mainly from the atolls. Here you will find different kinds of local vegetables, fruits and yams, packets of sweetmeat, nuts and breadfruit chips, bottles of home made sweets and pickles and bunches of bananas hanging on coir ropes from ceiling beams. Another building just next door sells smoked and dried fish.
Built in the 17th century the Huskuru Miskiiy or Friday Mosque served the population of Male’ as their main mosque for almost four centuries, until the Islamic Centre and Grand Friday Mosque took over the function in 1984. Built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar in 1656 the mosque is a masterpiece of coral curving and traditional workmanship - probably the best display of coral curving anywhere in the world. The walls of the mosque are hewn together with blocks of filigree-curved coral blocks. Heavy wooden doors slide open to the inner sanctums with lamp hangings of wood and panels intricately curved with Arabic writings. The area surrounding the mosque is a cemetery with a legion of intricately curved coral headstones. The Munnaaru or minaret in front of the mosque, used to call the faithful to prayer was built in 1675 by the same Sultan.
Right in front of the Hukuru Miskiiy is Mulee-aage, a palace built in 1906 by Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III, replacing a house dating back to the mid-17th century. The palace with its wrought iron gates and fretwork friezes on its roof edges and well-kept garden was intended for his son, but the Sultan was deposed. During World War II vegetables were grown in its garden to help relieve food shortages. It became the President’s Official Residence when Maldives became a republic in 1953 and remained so until 1994, when the new Presidential Palace was built. At present Mulee-aage houses the President’s Office.
The National Museum is housed in the only remaining building of the former Sultan’s Palace, which is now the Sultan’s Park. It is an Edwardian colonial-style building of three storey, fairly low key from the outside compared to the amazing collection inside. The articles on display range from thrones and palanquins used by former sultans to the first printing press used in the country, the rifle used by Mohamed Thakurufaanu in his fight against the Portuguese in the 16th century, ceremonial robes, headgear and umbrellas used by Sultans to statues and other figures dating from 11th century, excavated from former temples. A variety of artifacts from times past would give an idea of the unique and rich culture and history of this island nation. A visit to the museum gives an instant insight to the wealth of history most visitors never suspect existed. No longer will you think of the Maldives solely in terms of a tourist destination. The museum is open daily except Friday and public holidays from 9.00 to 11.40 and 3.00 to 5.40. A small fee is charges for admission.