Where Are You Going?

Paradise island sunrise

Paradise island sunrise

After much encouragement, I took the plunge and left Australia for the first time since my return eighteen months ago. My husband was giving a series of workshops at a college on the island of Male, the capital of The Maldives, and knowing what the island was like, I really wasn’t interested in joining him. However, images of clear turquoise tropical waters, and a free weekend on the Paradise Island resort eventually won me over and I agreed to go.

Island in the sun

Island in the sun

Where the ocean meets the coral reef.

The resort lived up to, and beyond expectations. Tourism was a late comer to The Maldives, and as a result, they’ve done it well. There are no high-rise beach front properties, and only the uninhabited islands were developed, which ensured existing island villages were not destroyed in the process.

Paradise Island

Paradise Island

The view from our beach hut

The view from our beach hut

After one night in a beach villa which was nestled among the natural tropical plants of the island, and a short stroll to the beach, we were upgraded to a water villa, situated along a boardwalk above the lagoon, with a private balcony and stairway to the pristine water below us.

Water Villas

Water Villas

Our weekend retreat was pure relaxation and indulgence. I reclined on the private outdoor cushioned lounge, napped, read, and swam or snorkeled in the warm sea. Then, I’d rinse the salt water off with a plunge in the outdoor bath, and begin the cycle all over again, interrupted only by meals and an occasional walk.

Male was very different, but unexpectedly fascinating. It’s a city of approximately 150,000 people, crammed onto a small island with a perimeter of roughly 5.7 km.

The view of Male from our hotel

A view of Male from our hotel

Another view from the hotel

Another view from the hotel

The lagoon that once surrounded the island has been filled in to make room for more buildings, roads, and people, and the reclaimed land is held in place by concrete walls and water breaks reinforced with concrete bollards.

Concrete border

Concrete border

The artificial beach on Male

The artificial beach on Male

There are two swimming areas for the locals, one a small artificial beach, created for the purpose, and the other is a protected area, the same as those provided for the boats that bring essential supplies to the island.

Boats - Male

Boats – Male

Maps - the island of Male and the island of Male's airport

Maps – the island of Male and the island of Male’s airport

The country’s airport is on a nearby island, and transfers from the airport to the city, or between any of the 1,190 other islands is by ferry or speed boat.

The airport ferry terminal

The airport ferry terminal

Airport to Male ferry

Airport to Male ferry

Male as seen from the airport

Male as seen from the airport

I spent an hour or so each day walking around the island. On my first day, all I saw was concrete and bitumen, but with each new day, I began noticing the trees growing out of nothing, providing snatches of green, shade, and occasionally flowers.

Sultan Park

Sultan Park

The city has one small park called Sultan Park, a small oasis of green, but apart from the few cemeteries, there really isn’t much room for trees.

A Male cemetary

A Male cemetary

The people, like the people in other Muslim countries we’ve visited, are lovely — hospitable, friendly, and generous.

Two times I was approached on my walks, each time by a different man, but both times they greeted me with the same line, “Where are you going?”

As a white woman walking alone, I’m wary of such approaches. I didn’t feel afraid for a moment, but I’ve been caught out before by men in strange countries coercing me into accepting help I didn’t want, which resulted in me then having to deal with the uncomfortable expectation of payment, so with both these men, I simply smiled and truthfully stated I was exploring the island, declined their offers of water, or a tour on their motorbike, and kept walking.

April was a frantically busy month for me, and that’s my excuse for failing to learn the basics of Dhivehi, the Maldivian language before I arrived in Male. However, while we were there, I learnt that Maldivians don’t have words for those we consider essential to politeness. In Dhivehi, there is no word for ‘thank  you’, or ‘please’, or ‘hello’, or ‘goodbye.’

Can you imagine living without those words?

How does a culture do without politeness?

I’ve given it some thought and come to the conclusion that it probably began because the people once lived in small communities on each of the tiny islands. In places where everyone knows everyone else, maybe appreciation and gratitude were a given.

In most cultures, a person would feel unappreciated if they were not thanked for anything he or she did for someone else. I like the notion of not having that expectation, of assuming that whatever we did was truly appreciated and acknowledged at all times.

And perhaps, just like I don’t greet my husband with a hello each time he emerges from his office, that is how it used to be for the islanders. If I leave my husband in the living room watching television, I don’t say goodbye. Maybe living in a small community on an island is similar to living in a family home, leaving no need for such words.

Still, Male is not a small community, and I struggled to see how a city of that size could manage without a hello or a goodbye, until I was told that when greeting someone, a Maldivian will ask, ‘Where are you going?’

I assume they part with phrases such as ‘I’m going home,’ or I’m going to school’ but my lessons in their language didn’t get that far.

Those men who I suspected were asking me where I was going, so they could offer to take me there and then demand payment from me, were simply saying, ‘Hello.’ I feel I owe them an apology. They did ask me where I was from, and other idle chatter, so it’s likely they were simply being friendly.

The Maldivian Flag

The Maldivian Flag

Paradise Island sunset

Paradise Island sunset

All up, I’m very glad I agreed to visit this interesting country.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Where Are You Going?

  1. Fascinating. I wonder how they came to adopt the Muslim faith when they’re an Island group. Presumably from Arab traders.I also wonder if they know and understand the please and thank you’s of the Westerners who like you didn’t understand their concept of hello.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Hi David,
      The Maldives are situated in the Indian ocean, about 600 kms south west of India, and I suspect that’s where their Muslim faith came from.
      Many of the people I met there have studied in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, and the person who explained the language to me, said he had difficulty grasping the idea of politeness when he first went to England. It seemed strange to him. It just goes to show how we are all heavily influenced by our culture.
      Thanks for the Tweets, too. xxx

  2. Lovely tour of a part of the world I knew existed but knew nothing about, Juli.

    Your photos are great and I’m glad you enjoyed your weekend there. It certainly does look like paradise looking at the colour of the sea, and I’m glad you were able to enjoy yourself by resting on those golden sands.

    • Thank you, Hugh.
      I’m an explorer at heart, so I rarely have a truly relaxing holiday because where ever we go, I want to see everything there is to see. I did that in Male, but on Paradise Island, I relaxed and loved it. I think it should be compulsory for everybody experience that kind of luxury for at least a couple of days a year.

      • I agree. We all need to recharge the battery every once in a while. Life drains us and it’s lovely holidays like this that help put everything back together for us again.

        You’re welcome on the reblog. It’s the kind of post that Meredith over on Covey View likes to see being published.

  3. What an interesting trip you had along with an interesting cultural lesson. I learned something new today. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos of a lovely adventure.

    • Thanks, Gennie. Be patient, when I was busy raising my family and establishing my occupation, I never traveled far, but there have been many, many opportunities since.

  4. What a wonderful opportunity to meet a new culture, to relax and to be in a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing this!

    • We didn’t do any snorkelling, Maria. We focussed on ‘doing nothing’ for our weekend on Paradise Island. The beautiful fish were easy to see in the clear shallow waters, although I’m sure the deeper water would have had more to see. Maybe next time.

  5. What a fascinating place — and your post brought it alive both physically and culturally.

    The last photo of the sunset is stunning. But I think the airport ferry terminal is my favorite. So different compared to the huge, too-busy airports I travel through in my wanderings! 🙂

  6. Thank you, Cindi. It was interesting, and I loved the airport too. I’ve been in small airports before, but never one where you have to catch a ferry to get anywhere else. And boating over such magnificent warm blue water feels like a holiday in itself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s