Male, not in the travel brochures!

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Africa » Seychelles
January 27th 2016
Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: -4.68182, 55.4837

Early on the 23rd January we approached the port of Male in the Maldives. It was about 6-30am and the sun was just rising. In the eerie morning stillness an interesting sight was to be seen. Ten storey buildings rising up from the sea. Male is the capital of the Maldives but it is the island which does not appear in tourist brochures. All the main infrastructure and government buildings are situated on this one island and most of the population live here. The resort islands are more remote and are probably the stunning places shown in the advertising. However, Male is far from that. As we sailed towards this place we passed another island on which the airport is situated, in fact the whole island is the airport. It was a busy airport with many planes taking off and landing. We anchored off the main marina of Male and we had to catch a tender to land on the island itself. The Maldives are supposed to be totally Muslim in religion and the main sites to see involved this religion.

We went on shore about 9am. As we alighted there was a large water fountain under which many of the local children were playing. Our first stop was at the markets. Here they had extensive fruit and vegetable markets with most stalls selling bananas and coconuts as well as other vegetables such as small peppers and carrots, etc. Next to these were the fish markets. There were many fish laid out on the benches and the floor and we watched the skilful fishermen filleting the larger fish. There were many tuna as well as other varieties. The locals were milling around, bartering with those selling for the best price.

We then moved on, walking through the narrow streets crowded with motorbikes, the main form of transport here. It was a warm, humid day and the air pollution from the vehicles was high. We stopped at a shopping complex and were invited up to see his shop by a large man touting for trade on the footpath. We went up the stairs and found several souvenir shops in close proximity, all with much the same goods on sale. At least they were air-conditioned so we got out of the heat for a while. We finally bought a model of the local boats for Fletcher and a nice top for me.

We then went looking for a WiFi café. We found a pizza restaurant which had a lovely Mediterranean courtyard and while not air-conditioned, at least had fans moving the air about. We ordered ice coffees and had an hour of free WiFi which enabled us to check email and upload my blog. After that we walked to where the main mosque was situated. This is a modern building which is next to the Islamic Centre. These were closed to the public on this Saturday. In the nearby square there was a memorial to the martyrs of November 3rd, when a coup took place here. Although nominally a republic the last elected president is currently in gaol serving 13 years as a political prisoner. We spotted posters which were obviously exhorting the government to set him free.

Opposite this memorial is Sultan Park, a welcome oasis of greenery. However, as we soon discovered, half of the park is covered with artificial trees made from lights and artificial flowers and leaves. It would be very pretty at night time. Further along we also found what we think was the tomb of Abu al Barakat, a missionary who brought Islam to the islands. There were a couple of interesting buildings and a well there.

Having seen what was listed as the main sights we then walked along the main shopping street. This ran across the island and had many modern shops selling clothing, motorcycles and whitegoods. We trudged on walking towards the main stadium which when we got there was a soccer stadium, without a running track. Fletcher had lectured to many coaches from the Maldives over the year and hoped to see the athletics track. There was another stadium on the other side but we weren't expending the energy to go there. I spotted an Illy sign and we walked to this coffee shop which turned out to be a sports café showing the Aust v India one-day match. No pubs in this Muslim country. We stayed there for lunch, watching the cricket and using the free WiFi. About 2-30pm we moved on and walked to the waterfront. Here we found the only beach on this island, a man-made one. There were families there enjoying the Saturday afternoon sunshine and the coolness of the water. I was disappointed to see the rubbish lying around all over this city and especially littering the otherwise clear water. We stopped for a short while and I dipped my toes in the shallows. Then we walked around the shoreline heading back to the tender pier. We saw another modern mosque which was open but very sparse inside. We eventually made it back from whence we had come that morning.

We watched the many different watercraft busily running to and fro from the outer islands. People were waiting for ferries and we saw a prison boat returning to shore. No doubt it was carrying visitors who had been to see loved ones on a prison island somewhere. There were also Coastguard vessels and very fast speedboats as well as the more traditional craft with their upturned prows.

We had had enough of this hot and dusty place so caught the tender back to the ship for a rest and a shower before dinner. We watched the sail away from our balcony, again wondering at the tall buildings which seemed to erupt from the sea itself. As the lights came on we bade farewell to the not so glamorous side of the Maldives.

We have now spent three days at sea on our journey to the Seychelles. Our tablemates who had lost a passport in Singapore returned to us in Colombo with tales of their adventures to get an emergency passport and arrange flights to rejoin the ship. At least they are back. We watched the Big Bash final on the TV in our stateroom and were pleased that the Thunder won. We have won another quiz, this time the prize was a pen each, though when the Cruise Director, Mark, who was conducting the quiz, found out it was only the two of us he gave us five pens!! The Pop Choir reconvened yesterday so there are more songs to learn and practice for a future performance. We have been celebrating Australia Day today. We went up on deck to have an Aussie BBQ for lunch but the lines were so long and the tables so few we retreated back down to the dining room. Looking forward to reaching Mahe in the Seychelles tomorrow

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