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Male

The pint-sized Maldivian capital is the throbbing, mercantile heart of the nation, a densely crowded and fascinating place, notable mainly for its stark contrast to the laid-back pace of island life elsewhere in the country.

Male (mar-lay) offers the best chance to see the Maldives away from the resort buffet and infinity pool. Overlooked by tall, brightly colored buildings and surrounded by incongruously turquoise water, Male is a hive of activity, the engine driving Maldives’ economy and the forum for the country’s saga-worthy political struggles.

Male is also pleasingly quirky – alcohol-free cafes and restaurants jostle with shops and lively markets and the general capital-city hubbub is very much present. This island city may not have a huge number of sights, but it offers a very real chance to get a feel for Maldives and to meet Maldivians.