The Maldives is an ancient civilization. Scholars and historians estimate that the Maldives was populated over 2,500 years ago. The Maldivian people can trace their ancestors back to parts of India, the African continent, Southeast Asia, Arabia and other distant corners of the world. The Maldivians are descendents of the different races and ethnicities that crisscrossed the Indian ocean throughout the centuries.
Regardless, the Maldivian culture is unique in its traditions and way of life. The Maldivian culture, crafts, traditions and customs are shaped by the natural rhythms and cycle of the breathtaking environment of the islands. Step back in time and explore history by visiting these cultural hotspots.
1. Utheemu Ganduvaru
Utheemu Ganduvaru (palace), situated in Utheemu in Haa Alif Atoll, is the birthplace of Mohamed Thakurufaanu, the most revered hero and Sultan in Maldivian history. The tale of the brave Sultan is one that reverberates with all Maldivians. In 1558, the Portuguese invaded the Maldives and established their rule. Mohamed Thakurufaanu, and his brothers Ali and Hassan, fought the Portuguese for over eight years. The story goes that they would disembark on different islands in the darkness of night, fight the Portuguese, and leave the island before daybreak. Eventually they reached the capital and defeated the Portuguese leadership.
Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu ruled the Maldives as a just and considerate leader. Our stories paint the image of a Sultan who cared for the utmost well-being of the people, and paid special attention to the poor and needy.
Curious tourists can visit the palace, now a museum, and explore the ancient 500-year old wooden interiors. Lamps that burn coconut palm oil, intricate wooden carvings, and swing beds are just some of the historical treasures you’ll find in the palace.
2. Hukuru Miskiy and Munnaaru
Built in 1658, Hukuru Miskiiy is the oldest and most intricate structure in Male’ city. The phenomenal mosque is a testament to the expertise and skills of the Maldivian craftsmen of the past.
The mosque is incredibly unique in its design. The craftsmen used interlocking coral blocks to create the structure. Each block is adorned with intricate coral carvings. You can find masterpieces of traditional Maldivian woodcarving and lacquer work in the interior of the mosque. Adjacent to the mosque is a minaret built in 1675. The minaret is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Male’ city.
In 2008, UNESCO declared the Hukuru Miskiiy as a World Heritage site. “The architecture, construction and accompanying artistry of the mosque and its other structures represent the creative excellence and achievement of the Maldivian people", stated UNESCO.
3. The Old Mosque at Laamu Isdhoo
The Old Mosque at Laamu Isdhoo is a site of great historical significance. Scholars discovered the Loamaafaanu, the oldest written records found in the Maldives in this very mosque. Written in AD 1194 in Evēla Dhivehi script, the oldest copper-plate book is our glimpse into the Maldives of our ancestors.
The Old Mosque at Isdhoo is one of the finest surviving examples of a small coral stone mosque, it is one of the many coral stone mosques scattered throughout the Maldives. You can find the structure of the mosque itself, an old well, and a cemetery with tombstones in the mosque complex. Fine carvings, entrance steps, carved wooden doors, lacquer calligraphy and the finest decorations are just a few of the many intricate elements you will find in this mosque.
4. Kalhu Vakaru Miskiy (or The Travelling Mosque) at Male’ City
Kalhu Vakaru Miskiy is one of the most unique and beautiful historical buildings in Maldives. Throughout the past 200 years, the mosque has been dismantled and relocated from one place to another. Hence the name, The Travelling Mosque. The structure is made from hirigaa (coral stone) and kalhu vakaru (lumber from the ebony tree). Standing on a coral foundation, carved with intricate geometric designs, and engraved with Arabic calligraphy, the mosque is a pure testament to the masterful craftsmanship of our ancestors. The Travelling Mosque is easily one of the most accessible and sought after cultural landmarks in the Maldives.