Ever wondered what a Maldivian village looked like? Synonymously known for its overwater bungalows and a luxury price tag you might be surprised that Maldives has a lot more to offer to those who seek it. The Maldivians live on local islands rich in culture. Locals welcome guests to witness first hand the cultural traditions and sustainable living practices that these islanders value ~ a rare luxury.
The beautiful sandy streets are lined with stories to tell. Take a seat on a joali and watch island life go by or enjoy a dreamy nap. The joali continues to create communal spaces and is easily identified as a cross between a deck chair and a hammock. Originally, they were entirely a product of the coconut palm, with a wooden frame supporting a seat made from coir rope.
It was Maldivian coir rope made from the fibres of coconut husks that first put Maldives on the map. For vessels seeking to traverse the treacherous Indian Ocean, those whose beams were lashed together with strong coir could better withstand impact with an unexpected reef than those fastened rigidly with nails. The high quality of Maldivian coir in comparison to neighboring Sri Lanka or India fetched a good price, once attracting traders from all over the world. Today’s joali made with coir’s synthetic successor tell the tale of the industry’s demise. You can marvel over this intrinsic technique as Maalhos locals still make the coir which they use to thatch together palms.
Coconut palm leaves are generally widely available on the local islands and more so on the uninhabited islands. Harvesting, processing and thatching work is labour intensive and the locals make light work of it. Skills are widely known on Maalhos as palm leaves are readily available thanks to the dense lush jungle that occupies half the island.
Once thatched the roofing gets sold to resorts as it looks attractive and blends well with the natural environment. It is a renewable material and is ecologically sound, however you may notice for their own housing locals have changed to corrugated steel or other materials. Unveil your artistic nature as you learn to weave coconut palm leaves into traditional roofing from the local ladies on the main beach while gazing upon the boundless beauty of the Indian Ocean.
Sacred to the Maldivians is the coconut palm, known as the ‘tree of life’, it’s even on the emblem of Maldives. Harvested for all manner of uses, from food and drink to fibre and fuel, the coconut is one of nature’s most versatile fruits. Coconuts (or kaashi in Dhivehi) are collected from the ground of Maalhos.
Extracted by Maldivians for thousands of years, coconut oil may just be their secret for well-nourished skin and radiant, natural beauty. Rich in vitamin E, fatty acids and antioxidants, it’s bursting with beneficial powers. Handcrafted using traditional methods, virgin coconut oil is extracted from the kernel and meat of matured coconuts.
Guests on Maalhos are invited to attend demonstrations of coconut oil being produced by the local ladies. Bottles of this oil are available to purchase, or you can bring your own and they can refill it for you.
The joyous Maldivian children play on the streets and surrounding beach. You can find century-old traditional houses built from coral stone on the islands. Each island also has a mosque, an island council office, a school and special designated beach for guests where they may wear their bikini. During prayer times you may find yourself alone on the streets. There are no cars and as you tour on foot one can gain inner peace observing the quiet and simple island living.
Some islands are more green than others, the dominating breadfruit trees, various other fruit trees and coconut palms create very welcome shade on the streets of Maalhos.
Each local island may hold very different traditions to the other. Some islands become prominent in one tradition for example fishing, making dhoni’s, thatching coconut, harvesting fruits or lacquer work. The community in Maalhos enjoy a variety of the traditional works and are quite versatile in this sense.
You are always welcome to enjoy the pristine beach. Low tide allows you to walk the full island perimeter in roughly 45 mins. Walking through the village will give you a great insight to the history of this island nation. The locals are very friendly with the younger generation speaking perfect English so don’t hesitate to ask questions, they will be more happy to help. Sometimes they might ask you “which island are you from?”
Picture credits: Camilla Dellión April 2019