Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, April 03, 2015

18. Male, the Maldives Islands, Indian Ocean

Male, the largest island and the capital of the Maldive Islands was our anchoring point.
Tender to a Jam Packed Island
We had to use a tender to get ashore. Everything in and around this 1 by 2 km island is very crowded and tightly packed. To save space sky-scrapers are built. There just is no more room for anything else. All one can see are buildings and narrow streets filled with people, mopeds, mini trucks and cars. It is hectic on the island. Boats are searching for room inside the very small, shallow harbor. Large ships need to anchor further out. This is not a place for vacations; it is a mini metropolitan business place.
Grand Mosque at the Islamic Cultural Center

All of the people of the Maldives are Sunni Muslims. The biggest attention getter and main attraction is the golden dome and minaret of the Grand Mosque at the Islamic Cultural Center. It rises above many buildings near the harbor and truly is the spiritual center of the islands. Carol and I visited the mosque. We were received with a very friendly welcome. A young man asked Carol if

she wanted a head covering but Carol had brought her own scarf. Shoes had to be removed before
He Discussed Religion With Hans
entering. The young man’s English was excellent. Carol explored the inside of the mosque alone and this young man and I talked about
Inside the Prayer Hall
religion. Well, it was he who talked, trying to convince me that Islam is the true and only religion. He was very knowledgeable in his subject and maybe a bit brainwashed but it was a friendly exchange of ideas. Naturally I could not even bring this man to hesitate and think about what I said, he was a true believer of his religion and he had all the answers. There is no use talking to someone who has a closed mind. Yet I could not just stand there and agree with all he said. We both kept it friendly. We all won. Carol had her free time to take pictures. The young man felt like he did the right thing in trying to make me see his religion as the only true way and I had an interesting experience. We left on friendly terms after maybe 30 minutes, with a handshake and a smile.

 We explored some of the docks, side streets, the fish market, a green grocery market and saw the controlled chaos and lifestyle of the locals. Competition is fierce on this island of Male’. Some stores have people walking or standing in the streets to talk to passers-by and lure them or talk them into visiting their shops. It was done with flair but still, it was strange to be asked to buy something from their shop; we were just walking past their premises. US Dollars were
accepted, one does not need to exchange money. Sure the exchange rate was not the best that way but it saved us time and standing in line at the bank later to change the rupees back to dollars.

The hectic pace of the small shops amazed me. The fish market, an open store with locally caught fish thrown onto the tiled floor, was not too busy. I believe the best fish had been sold already. We were there in the afternoon and the fish smell was overwhelming. Flies buzzed about, fish guts were piled up and nobody seemed to notice the lack of hygiene in the place. That is the daily life of Male. If you get used to things and see them daily in a dirty way, you believe it is the normal way of living. From my point of view it was not healthy, yet the locals live like this; and think that is the way it is done all over the world.
Betel Leaves

Green grocers across from the fish market sold odd fruits like spine fruit, or sugar made from coconuts. Betel leaves were offered that give you a high and make the inside of your mouth all bright red. A taxi driver told us that drugs are a big problem on the island. I can only imagine.

We hired a taxi the next morning before we left the port again and had a city (Island) round trip tour, looking for any kind of beauty. All we saw were busy people and crowded streets abuzz with mopeds,
Busy Streets
cars and trucks. We found a section along the beach where young men scuba dive. Women are not allowed to swim in the ocean. The women were not allowed to scuba dive either. There is something about modesty in their belief system that prevents them from cooling off in the sea. Women could not be in a bathing suit and show legs or bare shoulders, etc. I don't understand it; I was told women are not allowed; I did not want to start a sermon about Islam’s strange laws.
Young Men Learning to Scuba Dive
Having visited Male and seen the insane overcrowding, I wondered where the nice parts of the Maldives were. Sorry to report that we did not find the stunning beaches that must be there someplace. Other passengers on the cruise saw them. I also did not see the $1000.-/night rooms with awesome views and superb locations that I was told about. Maybe I looked behind the scenes of those fancy resorts when I roamed through Male and looked into the Maldives kitchen so to speak. You
Lots of Mopeds Everywhere
know, there are always dumpsters behind the kitchen of a restaurant, a bit smelly and not very clean. Well, I am sure there are great spots and stunning vacation resorts on other Maldive Islands but this City Island is not one of them. No need to visit Male again.

Crowded Shoreline

Muslim Woman Learning to Ride
Motorcycle Sign Reads "Help Driving School"


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