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  • Overview

    Malé is the bustling capital of the Maldives, but it is often overlooked by tourists who head straight for the country's numerous resort islands. However, the packed city offers a glimpse of another side of the popular tourist destination: one more representative of everyday life in the Maldives.

    Far from the tranquillity of the five-star resorts that pepper the more popular islands, Malé moves at a brisk pace as the centre of government and commerce in the Maldives. Brightly-coloured buildings, business suits and bazaars rather than beaches are the order of the day, and the independent travellers that do take a holiday in Malé can sample cultural attractions like markets, mosques and museums in lieu of jungle hikes and watersports.

    The best shopping in the Maldives is undoubtedly in Malé, a city crowded with shops and markets. Most of the souvenir shops that cater to tourists are found in the business district, conveniently located close to the jetty where travellers arrive from the airport ferries. Another popular shopping district in Malé is the Singapore Bazaar, at the top end of Chaandhanee Magu, so-called because many of the products are imported from Singapore. Most of the outdoor markets in Malé are filled with fruits and vegetables rather than souvenirs, but it is enjoyable to spend a few hours browsing the colourful stalls. Though most countries' customs agents will confiscate coconuts and papayas, it is possible to buy some wonderful local spices, which are a popular souvenir from the Maldives.

    Getting around in Malé is relatively easy due to its small size. It is possible to walk around the entire city in about an hour, and most of the major attractions are clustered near each other on the north shore, about a 15-minute walk from the jetty. There is no public transportation in Malé, but taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.

    A predominantly Muslim city, the bars and restaurants in Malé are largely alcohol-free. The city is far from a nightlife hotspot; however, a holiday in Malé is richly rewarding for travellers looking to see the true face of life in the Maldives.

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    Malé is filled with culture and history, all clustered together on a tiny island. Its Islamic heritage is at the forefront with beautiful buildings like the Grand Friday Mosque and Islamic Centre, and those looking to soak up some Maldivian culture will want to plan for a visit to the National Art Gallery, Maldivian National Museum and Independence Square.

    Malé's markets are a popular attraction in their own right, ranging from the colourful stalls of the vegetable and firewood markets to the bustle of the famous fish market.

    There are few natural attractions in Malé, however a small artificial beach on the east coast of the island offers surprisingly good surfing. The Whale Submarine is a popular Malé attraction for those too timid to scuba dive, with a 40-minute underwater ride showcasing the marine life of the Indian Ocean.

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