Maldives: A Nation with Endless Coral Islands
Sachi G. Dastidar
Maldives is certainly one of the most interesting places on earth with her endless islands, endless white beaches, blue & turquoise waters. It is also to her credit that in spite of short of land and resources, located in Third World, she has been able to significantly raise the standard of living of her people mostly with tourist dollars, especially compared to her close neighbors Sri Lanka and India. Maldives is a Sunni Muslim-majority nation.
Landing in the airport in the man-made island one has to take a short ferry ride to get to the main island of Male, the political, administrative, economic and cultural center of the nation. Almost half the nation lives there. Maldives contains hundreds of islands, mostly uninhabited, but the most important is its capital Male. Nearby Hulhumale Island is being further expanded through land-filling with a bridge that will connect her with Male. Already a large number of housing for the workers of Male exist there with a bus service that takes residents to various corners of that small mostly man-made island. With her economy expanding Maldives has attracted large number of foreign workers from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and most importantly Bangladesh. One worker commented that “of our entire population, native and foreigners, probably 20% to 25% could easily be Bengali. Here you will hear on the street not only English, but also Hindi, and now Bengali.” There is such a preponderance of Bangladeshi Bengalis that many there do not know that there are over 100 million Bengali speakers in India. One Maldivian named Ashok in Villingili Island said apologetically “I didn’t know that there are Bengalis in India too.” Thus if one walks around Male it looks very much “Indian” as Maldivians belong to the same stock as in India and Sri Lanka, and as lots of foreign workers are from the Subcontinent. Since independence from Britain she has been ruled by one strongman but his loss to a young leader convulsed the nation until the new leader being imprisoned, finally exiled. During the visit in early 2017 it didn’t affect tourists.
Male – and Maldives – is one of the densest cities on earth yet in that small walkable island men and women have taken to motorbike with vengeance. There are cars as well but if one wants to see the capital one can easily cover that on foot. Two adjacent islands are Villingili and Hulhumale which are connected by ferry which leave every few minutes. There are ferries to other islands too, but not that frequently, or one can take seaplane. (Additional information can be obtained from official webs of Maldives government or travel sites.)
Here are a few pictures from the trip to Maldives: