Despite the concentration of population in Male', it is immaculately clean and hygienic. The Maldivian tradition of sweeping the roads early in the morning remains even in the urban capital. The ambience of this small, unsoiled semi-urban environment with the historical sites and a museum with artifacts of the distinctive Maldivian culture dating as far back as 5000 BC, has unexpectedly caught the imagination of many a visitor such as Thor Hyerdal.
Male' is the busiest place for shopping, given the choice and variety of goods available in this center of commercial activity. Local and imported handicrafts and souvenirs, cigarettes and electronic items are sold. The prices in Male' have now become highly competitive, with minimum or no duty levied on most items. Most of the souvenir shops are in the main business area which is only a five-minute walk from the jetty where most tourists usually arrive. It is always better to browse through a few shops before choosing what to buy. The shops recommended by guides or shop assistants volunteering to be guides are not necessarily the best places for shopping.
Duty Free shops at Male' International Airport offer high quality electrical and electronic goods, cameras, hi-fi stereo equipment, watches and cosmetics along with cigarettes and other merchandise.
A visit to Male'
Male', the capital of the Maldives, is the commercial center, seat of government and the location of many important historical and religious landmarks. With an area of just over 1.77 square Km, it is home to over seventy thousand people, and the busiest and the most populous island in the archipelago. In the past, it has been known as the Sultan's island.
The Grand Friday Mosque, Masjid-al Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu-al-A'z'am is the biggest mosque in the Maldives. It also includes the Islamic center. This grand mosque with its dominant golden dome decorates the facade of Male'. It can accommodate over five thousand worshippers at a time. Nearly all visitors to Male' take time to visit this magnificent landmark.
The old Friday mosque with its unique minaret and the tombs of national heroes and members of royalty resting in the quietness of its compound, gives the visitor a glimpse of the past. The art in the mosque and royal blue grounds are unique and invaluable.
Other important sites in Male' include the tombs of legendary saints, Mulee-aage - the previous Presidential Palace, the Presidential Palace built recently, and the national museum in the Sultan Park which shows the glories of a different era. All these are within a ten minute stroll.
The fruit and vegetable market and the firewood market are busy and colorful places where islanders from outer atolls trade their goods. The fish market nearby, is always immaculately clean, until the fish is landed in the busy hours of late afternoon when fisher folk begin to arrive with the day's catch. The fishermen cutting and cleaning the fish have developed the process to an art. It is a clean and well-maintained area that generates much interest from visitors and provides a glimpse into the life of typical Maldivian fisher-folk.
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