The third and last stop of the Indian Ocean islands is Male, Maldives. If Reunion was a volcano, and Mauritius was a volcano with life, the Maldives are nothing but life, and more life. The Maldives are no less than 26 atolls and 1119 islands. Several million years ago a chain of powerful submarine volcanoes exploded on the Indian Ocean floor, and eventually rose from the sea. They were much higher than they are today – as geo-thermal activity subsided, they slowly sank back into the sea. After many ages rising seas left only coral above the waves and tides and shifting sands formed small atolls. The atolls (by the way an atoll is a coral island or reef) and islands that remain today are spread out over 34,000 square miles of Indian Ocean and are located south west of India/Sri Lanka. None of the atolls in the Maldives Archipelago is more than 8 feet above sea level and the average is 3.5 feet. As you can imagine the people of the Maldives are very concerned about rising seas and are continually dredging sand from the seabed to create new islands. One artificially created island, Hulhumale, now has 50,000 residents. They are also purchasing land in Sri Lanka or India, as a backup plan. People of the Maldives are all of the Islamic faith (it is mandatory for citizenship). The population is about 400,000 with about 40,000 of them living on Male, the capital of the Maldives. Male, also known as King’s Island, is where the ancient dynasties ruled and where the palace was located. Male was a walled city surrounded by fortifications and gates. Today it is a thriving high-rise commercial center and is considered to be worldwide the second most densely populated island, after Ap Lei Chau of Hong Kong. The history of the islands is the usual Portuguese, Dutch, and finally British influence, but the British never sent a viceroy to the islands and they became independent in 1976. Finally the people are mostly from India and Sri Lanka, speaking an Indo-European language called Dhivehi, although most speak Arabic, Hindi, or English.
Susy and I had two choices for the day at Male; either take a boat out to a resort island and spent it on the beach, or take a walk around the city and see its few sites. You can guess that since we live on a beach we choose the latter. If you will look at the photo album above titled "Male, Maldives" we’ll get started with the tour. The first photo shows you a panoramic view of Male, and the second photo a panoramic view of the harbor. The third photo has the port sign and the fourth a map of Male. This was a tender (lifeboat) port, so after a short ride from the ship to a Jetty in front of a large plaza we started walking (5th photo). We crossed the plaza and entered an area called the bazaar. The lanes (streets) were narrow, crowded, and several times we almost got hit by motorbikes, cars, or small trucks (6th photo). We finally got into the rhythm of the traffic and just followed the locals in order not to get hit. Coming out of the bazaar (believe it or not Susy didn’t buy anything) at the waterfront, we walked along the fish market (7th photo) right across from where the fishing boats dock. In the eighth photo you see a typical fishing boat and a buyer from the market (wholesale) bargaining over the days catch. These fisherman live on their boats and if you look closely you can see their washing (clothes) hanging from the upper railing. We then crossed the plaza again and passed the "Grand Friday Mosque", built in 1656 which dominates the skyline with its golden dome and tower (9th photo). Unfortunately it was prayer time when we arrived so we couldn’t go in. As we passed the mosque we came into a circle (10th photo) in front of the gate to Sultan Park and the National Museum (11th photo). Entering Sultan Park we first passed along a tree lined path on our way to the National Museum (12th photo). The National Museum (13th photo) turned out to be the Sultan’s living quarters and the only building left of the Palace complex. Inside there were many artifacts from the Sultan’s time, including a throne (14th photo) and a painting of one of the Sultans (15th photo). I never did find out the exact dates of the dynasties but from the photos of the different Sultans I would guess it was from the late 1800’s to 1968 when the monarchy was abolished (perhaps much earlier). Leaving the museum and park we next passed a small mosque called the "Old Friday Mosque" (16th photo). What was unique about this mosque was the graveyard all around it and a fountain (outside of the photo) where men were washing themselves before entering. The seventeenth photo shows the President’s residence, Mulee-aage, built in 1913. This is supposed to be a well-preserved example of traditional Male architecture. I said the main transportation was motor bikes, but when we passed the next corner, near the Parliament building and the President’s residence, I couldn’t believe the number of parked bikes (18th photo). After our long walk, in the nineteenth photo you see Susy returning to the tender (I was trailing behind as usual), and in the twentieth photo you see her in the tender on the way back to the ship. She looks fresh and happy even if she didn’t purchase a thing (ha, ha).
Well, that’s it, the cruise is almost over and like I always say "time flies when you’re having fun". Last night we had a dinner with our Latin friends and afterwards went to a "Ball" because it was formal night. Tomorrow we arrive in Mumbai (Bombay) and believe it or not, are going to take our first ship’s tour. We are going with our friends to see the "Elephanta Caves". I’ll let you know all about it later. Speaking of later, if I get this posted today (Wednesday, March 10th) this will probably be the last posting until after we get home, Tuesday, March 16th. Tomorrow will be a tour day, Friday we disembark and move to the hotel, Saturday through Monday we will be touring Mumbai, and Tuesday we start home.
I hope you have enjoyed the blog up till now, and I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is for me to re-live these exotic places with you. This is probably goodbye until late next week,
Love You All,
Gary (alias Gagu)