In case you have not heard, there is a beautiful island-country in the Indian Ocean just below India and Sir Lanka. It’s called the Maldives, a chain of spectacular islands and atolls that are shaped like a garland in the middle of the ocean. Thousands of tourists have regularly flocked the Maldives as it quickly recovered from the 2004 tsunami (although visitors could still see hundreds of scattered dead corals and debris). As in all other far-flung tourist destinations, shopping in the Maldives could be quite an experience for the western tourist. There is an array of local items, exciting souvenirs, and delicious delicacies.
Shopping activities are centered in the capital city of Male. (Beyond the city, everything is about the sun, water, and tropical fun.) There are two shopping malls in Male, one of which is the Majeedhee Magu located on the main road. Rows and rows of shops sell local items of all sorts such as shirts, pants, hats, sunglasses, flip-flops, beach apparels, accessories, perfumes, and cosmetics. Some shops also sell electronic gadgets and pieces of jewelry. Anything that a tourist might have left back home or a local might need can be found here. The biggest surprise, perhaps, is that the mall is open until 11:00 PM and closes for 15 minutes during the day for prayer time.
(Maldives is a Moslem nation and the people pray at 6:00 AM, 12:00 NN, 3:30 PM, 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM.)
If tourists wish to buy more items and make a last minute purchase on their way out of the country, there is a duty-free shop at the Male International Airport that sells accessories, electronic gadgets, tobacco, and jewelry, to name a few.
The other shopping mall is Chaandanee Magu, which is better known for its souvenirs. The place is actually called the Singaporean Bazaar in the Maldives. The most popular souvenirs from this part of the world are miniature dhoni boats, lacquer wooden boxes from Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll, shell handicrafts, and the Thudu Kuna, a traditional reed mat with elegant geometric and abstract designs made from natural Maldivian fibers and hand-woven by the women in Gadhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll
Meanwhile, what foreign tourists should know is that the buying and exporting of turtle shells, black corals, pearl oyster shells and red corals is strictly prohibited. These may seem as the perfect exotic souvenirs, but visitors should stay away from them.
Finally, there are the local market and fish market located at the northern waterfront, still in Male. They are made up of tiny stalls and kiosks selling all kinds of local produce from the atolls, which include fresh fish, local vegetables, fruits, nuts, and yams. A common sight is a row of bottled pickles, home-made sweets, and yellow banana bunches.
Shopping in the Maldives is convenient since the city of Male is so tiny one can go from end to end in a taxi. The two malls and local market are not very far apart. There are banks, ATM machines and currency exchange corners all over the city. The malls accept US dollars.