Monday, March 16, 2009

Transport in the Maldives

You would expect plenty of boats in the Maldives...
Rightly so! The Maldives cannot survive without boats and there are many. Let us first look at the few.

The star performer is the traditional Dhoni. Each traditional dhoni is a unique vessel hand-built by a master craftsman even though a mass-produced fiberglass version has recently been introduced. Built of strong wooden planks, shaped round a strong wooden frame, the dhoni is built to sail in all seas. They are used fishing vessels and as inter-island ferries throughout the Maldives. Traditionally sporting a versatile lateen sail, the dhoni has also married well with the marine diesel engine and has become the workhorse of even the tourism industry.

Then there is a powerboat. In a country where the international airport is on an island all by itself, where the entire tourist resorts are on separate islands, the speedboat reigns king. It also performs well in recreation.

Getting around in the Maldives is not restricted to a boat though. Sea planes offer an even faster and scenic alternative.

On some of the bigger islands, especially on the capital island of the Male the latest sports cars compete with motorcycles, scooters and the sedate taxi. And it is quite probable that the world record for bicycle=per-capita is held by the Maldives!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Arriving in the Maldives

What you should expect on arrival?

The first surprise: Male International Airport is an island by itself! Next , your holiday starts right there. A 30-day tourist visa is granted on arrival. If Port health is satisfied that you have not been through any countries with serious contagion, you are in.

After luggage retrieval, do note that there is no Green Channel. All passengers luggage is screened, normally electronically. Keep the keys handy in case a manual inspection is called for. You may be asked whether you have any movies or CD’s. Answer all questions in a straightforward manner.

After Immigrations and Customs proceed to arrivals. A representative of your host resort will normally receive you. If no one meets you, ask at the information counter. If you need a reservation, approach a properly identified representative of a local agency.

After reception a quick boat or seaplane will take to your adventure in the Maldives.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The People and the Language

It is not recorded when and by whom the Maldives was first settled. However , archeological evidence and a look at the only language spoken in the country (called Dhivehi) tell an interesting story!

The languages of the Maldives’ immediate neighbors are predominantly Dravidian (with the sole exception of Sinhala, which is spoken by the Singhalese community in Sri Lanka), the Dhivehi language is Sanskrit based. Linguistic evidence clearly indicates this.

Before conversion to Islam in 1153 AD, the predominant religion in the Maldives was Buddhism (again something shared with the Sinhala speakers of Sri Lanka, Sinhala being a Sanskrit-derived language as well). This along with folklore and legend, points strongly to an Aryan migration from the ancient civilizations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, at a time circa 500 BC.

Things never remained that simple. The Maldives is placed right at the traders crossroads of the Indian Ocean. Daring seafarers from all around the known world often find respite on these islands. Some never left. All made their own contributions to the society and the gene pool of the people.

As Maldivian themselves traveled far and wide, they brought home exotic productsand left behind the records of their visits. The documented visits made to the court of Roman Emperor Julian in 362 AD and visits to the court of the Tang Dynasty Emperor of China in 658 AD are good examples.

Maldivians later traveled to Bengal, Malaysia and the rest of Asia. This brought in strong influxes of these languages. Conversion to Islam brought in Arabic and Persian elements. The Portuguese who overcame the Maldives in the 16th century added theirs. Maldivians who sought education in Indian universities in the 18th century brought Urdu and Hindi. In the 19th century, the British Empire contributed English!

Maldivians have always welcomed and accommodate visitors who came in peace. Isolationism was never practiced. Cultural and other beneficial influences were assimilated. Only threats to independence were repelled.

The Maldives continues to remain a unified country with a unique culture and a unique language with its own script, literature and history.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sightseeing in Male

Hukuru Miskiiy
Hukuru Miskiiy is the oldest mosque in the country, dating from 1656. The exterior is protected by a corrugated-iron covering which doesn't look very attractive, but the coral-stone walls are intricately carved with patterns and Arabic script. The interior is superb and famed for its fine lacquer work and elaborate woodcarvings.

The significance of the 'Friday' in its name points to the importance of that day of the week, which is the day on which all males go for the main religious congregation of the week, at noon, and at which the Imam gives religious advice. In earlier times, the Hukuru Miskiyy was the main mosque where Friday's noon prayers were held.

The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace, Theemuge is one of the most important attractions for those visiting Malé and is on the itinerary of any tour in Malé. The design and architecture of the palace combines the grandeur of local tradition with modernity. The palace is on Orchid Magu west of the main shopping area.

Mulee-aage was built just before the First World War by Sultan Shamsuddeen III for his son. The Sultan was deposed and his son never took office.In1953,duringtheFirstRepublicMulee-aage was designated as the Presidential Palace and was the official residence of the president until the new Presidential Palace was built.

The Islamic Centre

The Islamic Centre opened in 1984, is located between Meduziyaaraiy Magu and Ameeru Ahmed Magu. The Centre’s most important feature is the grand mosque, Masjidul Sultan Mohammad Thakurufaanu al A’zam which holds up to 5,000 people. In addition to the Grand Mosque, the Islamic Centre houses a conference hall, an Islamic library and classrooms.

Sultan Park & Museum
The Sultan Park and the National Museum are part of the old Sultan’s Palace and Palace grounds during the time of the monarchy. The Museum opened in 1952 and displays a large variety of objects and artifacts from times gone by. The collection comprises of relics from the pre-Islamic times to royal antiquities belonging to different monarchs. The Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. except Fridays and public holidays.

Just opposite the small park adjoining the Hukuru Miskiiy, is the tomb of Abu-al Barakaat, to whom the nation pays its respects for bringing to our shores the enlightenment of Islam in 1153.

The ‘Artificial Beach
It may sound strange in a country renowned for its beaches, however it is true that the residents of Malé get to enjoy an artificial beach built on the eastern side of the island. The beach is ideal for swimmers and those who cannot go to the nearby islands to enjoy the beach. There are food outlets and benches in the area where one can sit down and enjoy the scenery.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Male - The Capital of Maldives

Malé consists of five districts or wards;four on the island of Male’, a fifth on Vilingili, the island to the west of Male’ just 10 minutes away by boat. The Male’ International Airport is on Hulhule Island, a couple of miles to the north east of Malé..

Male provides employment for about 75000 people, roughly a quarter of the population of the entire country, on about two square kilometers of land on which there is no natural source of fresh water! Yet, Male manages is amazingly green, peaceful, clean and even graceful.

As you approach Male from North, the first note the number of cargo vessels anchored in the outer harbor. The Maldives imports just about all its basic life requirements. The inner horbor is chock full of speedboats and traditional dhoni. Note the abundance of high-rise buildings in the amazingly green landscape.

There is much to see in Male. If you are interested in buildings, ask your guide for the Presidential Palace, the Islamic Center, old Friday Mosque and surrounding graveyard (a must fir the history/architecture buff!)

If you are interested in what infrastructure keeps Male going, visit the Male South West Harbor, the artificial breakwater on the southern and western shores, the STELCO power generating facility and the MWSC desalination and sewerage treatment facility. Prior arrangements need to be made to visit these sites.

If you want shopping, the Local Market, the fish market and the souvenir shops are a must. Ask your guide for other interests.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Maldives is competing in the “New 7 Wonders of Nature” Campaign

The Maldives archipelago has been nominated for the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign. This campaign is a process in which seven natural wonders of the world are chosen by people through a global poll which will be declared in the year 2011.

The campaign is being organized by the Swiss based New7Wonders Foundation after their success in organizing the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. 261 qualified national and multinational nominees are now competing to make it to the top 77.

Please vote for Maldives by visiting Voting continues from January 7th until July 7th 2009 to determine the top 77 in each of the seven competing categories. The New7Wonders Panel of Experts will select the 21 finalists from the top 77 nominees. We would like to call all Maldivians, fans and well wishers of Maldives to join our effort to make Maldives as one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

History, Religion & Culture

The early history of the Maldives is enshrined in myth and legend. Archeological records indicate that the firstvisitorstotheMaldivessteppedashoreover5000yearsago.Accordingto folklore the Maldives was firstcolonizedbyanIndo-AryanracebetweenthefourthandfifthcenturiesB.C.

1st Century AD Roman manual of navigation Periplus Mari
Erithraei mentions islands assumed to be Maldives
2nd Century AD Ptolemy refers to Maldives in his geography.
362 AD Roman historian records visit of delegation
to Rome bearing gifts to Emperor Julian.
662 AD Historical Chinese document records the
King of Maldives sent gifts to Chinese
Emperor Kao-Tsung of Tang Dynasty.
1153 Maldives convert to Islam
1558 Portuguese invade Maldives
1573 Mohamed Thakurufaanu liberates Maldives from the Portuguese
1752 The Malabars invade and rule for 3 months
1887 Protectorate agreement with Great Britain
1932 First constitution enacted
1953 The firstRepublic
1954 Failure of the firstRepublic
1965 Independence from the British
1968 End of the monarchy, beginning of the second Republic
1972 Development of the firstislandresort
1972 Arrival of firsttouriststoislandresorts
Maldivian culture is a unique and practical phenomenon born of the fisher folk, the adventurer on the high seas, and the always-welcome guest. Binding this whole is our unique Sanskrit-driven language(called Dhivehi) and the Islamic faith.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Maldives Geography

The Maldives is situated in the South West of Sri Lanka, on the equator. The numerous coral reef islands, 1,190 in total, form an archipelago of 26 natural atolls ( groups of neighbouring coral islands). These 26 atolls are organised into 19 administrative atolls with the capital island of Male' established as an entity of its own forming the twentieth division. Seen from air, the atolls and the islands form breathtakingly beautiful patterns against the blue depths of the Indian Ocean.
The atolls of the Maldives are formed from coral structures. The atolls are part of a greater structure known as the Laccadives-Chagos Ridge, which stretches over 2000 kilometers. The islands are low lying with the highest point at approximately eight feet above sea level. Ring-shaped reef structures form the atolls and these reefs provide the natural defense against wind and wave action on these delicate islands.

Introduction to Maldives

The Maldives comprises of about 1190 islands grouped into atolls protected by surrounding coral reefs, which attracts various species of marine life. Coconut palms and tropical plants grow in abundance on most islands. The Maldives straddles the equator and has a tropical climate. The southwest monsoon brings the most of the rain, mostly around June and July. Normally, the skies are clear during the north east monsoon. As of the early 1970’s tourism has burgeoned in the Maldives. Surfers, divers, beach buffs, game fisherman and the sea lovers find the Maldives ideal.

The Maldives has increasingly become extremely accessible, especially by air. Scheduled and charter flights operate on a regular basis from points of origin in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Visitors are issued thirty-day tourist visa on arrival. Apart from normal customs and port Health formalities, nothing stands on the way of the inbound guest and tropical holiday