There’s nothing quite like a trip to the Maldives. When we think of a vacation on the islands, white sand, turquoise seas and palm trees pop into our minds. Sometimes the historic sites of this island nation get lost in the diving specials and beach resorts, but here are six historic sites you won’t want to miss.
1. Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque)
Presiding over the capital city of Male, this 17th century mosque is the oldest in the country. The outside is made of intricately carved white coral, and the interior is famous for its woodcarvings. Visitors can also visit the Muslim Cemetery on the Mosque grounds. If you’d like to see inside, dress respectfully and ask permission from staff on sight. To be assured of access, arrange to get permission with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs ahead of time.
2. National Museum
This relatively new museum houses a large collection of historic artifacts telling the story of the Maldives. Collections include traditional art, historic weapons, and household goods from eras past. The museum also includes a modern wing dedicated to artifacts from the present-day Maldives, including political objects, artisanal goods, and the skeleton of a rare whale.
3. Utheemu Ganduvaru
Birthplace of the Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu and other 16th and 17th century leaders, visiting this wooden palace is like stepping back in time. It is the best way to get an idea of what it was like to live as one of the rich and powerful in this society. After a tour, enjoy taking in life on this tiny island before the 20 minute boat trip back to the nearest large island.
4. Ali Rasgefaanu Ziyaarai
This ornate tomb is the resting place of King Ali Rasgefaanu, who was a 16th century ruler killed during the Portuguese invasion. He is still considered a great leader of the Maldives and a martyr.
5. Kahlu Vakaru Miskiy
This 17th century mosque is located at the Southeast corner of Sultan’s Park in Male. It is architecturally somewhat similar to Old Friday Mosque, featuring white coral and intricately carved designs. In 1978, this mosque was auctioned off, dismantled and moved to what is now Bandos Island Resort. However, in 1979 the resort donated the mosque back to the government and it returned to its historic location.
6. Tsunami Memorial
The Tsunami Memorial is a tribute to the victims of a recent event in the Maldives that will be a part of the nation’s history for decades to come. The 2004 tsunami swept through this island nation, killing over a hundred people and destroying homes and businesses. The striking tsunami memorial overlooks the sea and stands as a remembrance of what was lost.
While history isn’t usually the first thing on tourists’ minds when they arrive on the islands, the Maldives has a long history of Muslim culture and architecture and many remnants remain of colonization from other nations and cultures. Take a break from the beach and soak in some of the magic of years long past.