Male, the capital city of the Maldives, is home to a splendid array of mosques, as the country is predominantly a practitioner of Islam. Of special note are two in particular; one that claims the title of the largest mosque in South Asia, the Grand Friday Mosque, and one that is renowned as the oldest mosque in the country: the Male Friday Mosque. Not to be confused with each other owing to similar names, the two mosques present fascinating glimpses into Male’s nature of stark contrasts.
The Male Friday Mosque, also known by its alternative monikers of Hukuru Miskiiy and the Old Friday Mosque, is the oldest mosque in the Maldives. It was built in 1658, under the reign of Sultan Ibraham Iskandar II, and it served as the primary place of worship for the Muslim populace until 1984, when the Grand Friday Mosque took over as main spiritual centre. Composed entirely of coral stone, the aged walls of the Male Friday Mosque present an exquisite exercise in ancient grandeur. It features intricately carved coral stone work, punctuated by the detailed stylings of lacquer and exquisite wood carvings, representing the absolute pinnacle of classical Maldivian artistic expression.
Venture within the antiquated walls and you will encounter interiors inscribed by the delicate curlicues, loops and whorls of the Arabic script, whilst the exterior is framed by an impressive graveyard dating back to the seventeenth century. Interred within its grounds are the remains of noble sultans and figures of royalty, honoured by grave markers bearing a meticulous detailing of their illustrious lives once lived. Although it no longer functions as the country’s primary place of worship, the Male Friday Mosque continues to draw visitors both locally and from around the world, and those who practice Islam pray within its impressive confines each Friday. Forming an important part of Maldivian heritage, the mosque is a must-visit attraction when your travels bring you here.
Its formidable opposite in every way, the Grand Friday Mosque seamlessly claims the title of the largest mosque in South Asia, with its capacious interiors designed to accommodate up to 5,000 devotees at a time. Officially billed as the Masjid-al Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu-al-A’z’am in honour of a local hero who liberated the nation from the Portuguese, its most significant aspect glitters in the form of a gigantic golden domed roof, which dominates the cityscape. Venture within to encounter exquisite Arabic calligraphy and fine wood carvings that grace the interiors with a sense of spiritual elegance perhaps rivaled only by the towering cathedrals of Rome.
Taken together, these majestic spiritual centres bespeak the quintessential Maldivian experience and should be included in any cultural itinerary during your time here. Equally as grand and accommodating are the elegant island resorts in Maldives on offer, such as the Maalifushi Maldives. With gracious interiors and hospitable service, this is a prime luxury resort in Maldives to host your stay.
Jayani Senanayake is a writer who dabbles in travel and all things exotic. Under the pseudonym of Caliope Sage, she writes of the allures that must simply be discovered.Google+