We bobbed to Male in our boats, rockin’ to the reggae of the waves.
Male – capital of the Maldives – a set of islands so low lying that a ripple might wash them away. So strange to see Male low on the horizon – a small island the size of our village covered from end to end in high-rise buildings – seemingly rising out of the sea in one unbroken block as if built on water.
The Maldives is a strange country – a constellation of coralline clusters of idyllic islands and ultramarine seas where there is a theocratic law that states all citizens must worship Islam. I’m afraid I didn’t and don’t.
The heat was stifling and the humidity sapping. The people were friendly but I always find it unsettling to see most of the men in modern cool polo shirts while the women are consigned to be cloaked from crown to toenail, often in black heavy robes, in which they must slowly broil. It’s not called Male for nothing. Females seem to get a rotten deal.
This was Male and not the Maldives. It was a mediocre city of high prices and few redeeming faults, with not a great deal to admire. The real Maldives are the beach resort islands quite far out. We did not get to visit those. They were exclusive and expensive and seemed not cost efficient in a journey of this expanse, duration and magnitude. But perhaps we should have opted for a beach day in paradise on a desert island instead of a sweaty day in town.
We admired what we could – the Mosque and a building that passed as a palace. The graveyard was the most exciting with its elaborately decorated gravestones in Arabic scripture. Muslims seem to value death more than life. I find that sad.
We even headed off on a ferry to another island. The ferry cost pennies and was fun sitting with the locals, and they seemed to appreciate us being there, but the island was disappointing. We drank coffee, bought from a kiosk surrounded by palm trees, and came back, did some shopping, got very sticky, avoided the multitude of mopeds and hopped back to the ship for a shower.
The expensive desert islands commandeered by the hotels may be the places to go for a beach holiday with water sports and snorkelling thrown in – but Male is a dead loss. I find it strange that a country based on such strict religious abstinence (you can’t get a glass of beer anywhere in Male and there is a dress protocol) should go out of its way to build (out of crushed coral) a series of islands awash with near nudity and afloat with cocktails of every flavour and alcoholic strength to attract tourists with the sole aim of extracting the sheckels. The native population set up the resorts, service the islands, sell the booze and pander to the tourists but despise their way of life. Smacks of gross hypocrisy to me.
Fortunately there was a great rock and reggae duo to dance to for hours and hours and lift the spirits as we ate barbeque food, drank beer and watched a huge moon hang over the stern of the boat as a cooling breeze whisked the hot humid air away.
Getting back to the cabin we were confronted with a set of instructions as to what to do in the event of being attacked by pirates! We are going near to the coast of Africa where Somalian or is it Sudanese pirates operate. But it’s OK – I have it on good authority that the waters are patrolled by destroyers full of fearless military marines of her majesty. As a belt and braces operation we have security guards on board – I haven’t seen them yet but I am sure that they are a bad bunch of bearded, burly black-belted bandits bristling with birettas, burp-guns and bazookas to blast the baddies back to bedlam.
However, I’m taking no chances – I’m breaking out the cutlasses again!! If they want pirating they can have a dose of their own medicine! Fortunately I am a black-belt in origami!
Cheers – yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!!