Category Archives: Travel

The Unexpected Visitor

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It is not often that you get to meet a person who is openly willingly to talk to you. It is even much less often that such an encounter happens with a creature other than a human being. However, I was lucky enough to be sought by an unexpected visitor. In this case it was a talking parrot.

Sitting at the balcony outside my room in Maafushi Island early on a Saturday morning, I was thinking of how things were going to get back into the hectic lifestyle when I return to Male’ City that afternoon.

A few moments later, a shrill screech just beside my ear startled me. A turn to my left revealed nothing less than a yellowish parrot perched on a branch of a huge tree, leading to the balcony. What came next was even more surprising!

The bird screeched once more and greeted me with a screechy “Hello”. I was so surprised by the occurrence that I jumped out of the chair, grabbed my hair and almost screamed with joy.

Next thing I knew, I was inside the bed room, jerking the cover off my boyfriend so that he too can meet with the unexpected visitor. At first, the parrot seemed to be shy and awkward not responding our calls. But just a few minutes after we started pretending to ignore him, the parrot’s curiosity got the better of him.

He jumped onto the balcony and began crossing the doorway to our room. Within a few moments, he was sitting comfortably on my boyfriend’s shoulder. And that is where he spent the next two hours, sitting on my boyfriend’s shoulder!

We even had to take him for breakfast and came to know that this unexpected visit from the talking parrot is not something unexpected at all. He is a frequent visitor to the “Island Cottage” guest house, but it is rare for him to have approached an unknown person.

As soon as our breakfast arrived, he jumped onto the table and was digging into an omelet. Next came the jam and the butter. It was so hilarious that this unexpected visitor who met us just a few hours ago, and would only speak a “hello” and a “Vahaka dhahkaba” (meaning talk to me in local Dhivehi Language) would be making the best of our breakfasts without a single thought into it.

After breakfast we came to know that the talking parrot actually has a name and is owned by the family that lives just next to the guest house. Joari, the unexpected visitor and the talking parrot.

Yet, that wonderful, unprecedented encounter had to come to an end as our ferry to Male’ City was scheduled to leave in the afternoon. We left Joari, resting on an undhoali (local name for swing), just outside the “Island Cottage”.

One thing I came to realize from the unexpected visitor is that parrots and birds and animals should not be caged. Just like Joari, they should have the right to move freely and wonder about, making unexpected visitors to strangers, spreading their warmth and harmony to others.

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Visiting Maafushi Island

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Kaafu Atoll Maafushi Island in Maldives is 26 kilometers from the Capital Male’ City. It takes a one and a half hour ferry ride to travel to the island with over 20 guest houses and a blooming local economy based on local tourism.

After a long and difficult semester at the university, my boyfriend and I decided to spend a short break exploring the island of Maafushi. We got onto a heavily crowded ferry, buzzing with houseflies on a warm Thursday afternoon.

Within one and half hours, we reached the island, to be welcomed warmly by a staff of the ‘Island Cottage’, the guest house we were staying in. A short walk took us to the guest house which was located just next to the main prison of Maldives, which is also established in Maafushi Island.

With a mixture of local and western style, ‘Island Cottage’ is the perfect name to call the guest house. A thatch roof covered the two storey house along with a wonderfully homey backyard and front yard.

Our room was much better that we had anticipated (even though I expected it to be a little bit more spacey). A huge balcony facing the households of Maafushi Island was perfect to mount our telescope for the mystical hobby of star and moon gazing.

‘Island Cottage’ was very homely with a living area offering plenty of privacy. The food there was great too. Yet, the same cannot be said about the prices in the island. Everything seemed to be very expensive but the pressure free environment is just reward for the costs.

One of the most unique things about Maafushi Island is the “Bikini Beach”. It is an area on the beach which gives complete privacy for guests to wear bikinis and go about having fun on an island which strictly follows the Islamic Sharia. No other inhabited island in the Maldives offers such a privilege for visitors.

All in all, our three day stay in the island was filled with joyous memories. The homeliness of the guest houses, the beach, seas and the quite, natural environment just a few hours from the capital city is not something to be overlooked. My boyfriend and I arrived back in Male’ City with many plans to make numerous visits to the island of Maafushi in the near future.

Maldives – An Economy Sustained Through Foreign Contribution

The Maldives economy has seen a great improvement and development during the past 25 years. The country’s different sectors have progressed while infrastructure, education, politics and foreign relations has also seen an improvement. Although many local businessmen, politicians and other individuals are being praised for their part in this progress, the contributions of foreigners to this country cannot be undermined.

In Alifushi Island (Day 3) & Back to Male’

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On the 22nd of February, Saturday, the final day on Alifushi Island, I wanted to make sure that the last moments I spent on the island were memorable and valuable. So I headed to the eastern side of the island, trying to get a glimpse of the beach. However, I was disappointed to see that the island does not have much of a beach area.

There were a few children playing near the breakwaters, some of them on top of it, trying to catch fish during those early hours of the day. Even with the lack of a beach, the sight was overwhelming. There was a low tide and the water had dried up, leaving a pathway to walk up to the breakwaters.

I had an interview appointment with the Chair of the island council at 9 AM and a few minutes to spare before that. So while wandering through the island, I met these little boys who were so eager to tell me what they know about the Bermuda Triangle.

The speed ferry back to Male’ was scheduled to depart at 12:30 that afternoon. So during the remaining few hours, I visited a historical shrine that has been on the island for hundreds of years. It was a monumental shrine of Tabrizi, who is reported by some historians as the man who converted Maldives into the religion of Islam.

At 12:30 I got into the ferry after paying farewell to the many people I had acquainted with in the past two days. I knew I was going to miss the stress free environment of the island, but at the same time, I was eagerly looking forward to arrive in Male’, to see my family and loved ones.

The ferry made several stops in many islands of the Raa Atoll and I had my mind set on not dozing off during the five hour journey. And the reward for that choice was utter amazement. It was very sunny in Alifushi Island but as we began our journey back to Male’, I was fortunate enough to experience diverse weathers in different regions of the country. It made me realize the vastness of the Maldives, despite the few land masses.

At one point, the sea was so rough I thought I would throw up. There was a time when it was raining so heavily that we had zero level visibility. The islands and vessels just a few meters away were not visible to the naked eye. After about three hours of travelling, the weather had taken a completely different turn. The sun began shining brightly, and I had the chance to view triple rainbows over the islands. Flying fish and dolphins were also enjoying the sun and showing off to us “inhabitants of the land”.

We were lucky; the ferry arrived in Male’ an hour earlier than anticipated. Once again, I was surrounded with huge buildings and the non-stop traffic of my country’s capital. And I thought to myself, the inhabitants of Male’ are missing so much from their lives compared to the people in the island, but then again, the people living in the islands must be feeling they are deprived of the wealth and ease, common to the city dwellers.

In Alifushi Island (Day 2)

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Friday, 21st of February was the second day I spent on Alifushi Island. The most important event of the day was the Friday prayer. There were four mosques on the island with a population of roughly 2600. We stationed the camera and began shooting near the main mosque situated at the center of the island.

After the prayer, I met several people (only men are obliged to go for Friday prayers in Islam) including the leading religious scholar (Imam). Some of them were curious to know what two lone strangers were doing on their home island.

We headed to the Alifushi Health Center. I talked to some of the nurses on duty and came to know that 2 doctors and 3 nurses were attending to the 30 patients reported on a daily basis. Just next to the health center was the Pre-School.

A few streets away was the police station of the island being run in a residential home due to the lack of a building. The police officers on duty refused to talk to us, citing a strict policy under which the police media officer will only be relating details to the media personnel.

While we were headed home after a long day of work, it began raining lightly. According to the locals, the island has not had rainfall for half a year. Some of the children were rejoicing along with the light shower, playing in the rain and running around the streets.

We went for dinner at a local café and by the time we were headed back “home”; the light rain shower had transformed into a raging thunder storm. It must have been around 10 PM and without any street lights, the lightning continued to brighten up the streets every once in a while along with thunder the crackling. It was quite eerie, I would say.

When I reached “home”, I was fascinated by the rainfall as it became a reminder of my early childhood days. I relate that sound to happy and comfy times. The continuous drip-drip sound of huge droplets of rain on the roof is something I rarely hear in Male’ any longer. I thought the sound would help me get to sleep faster than usual.

But the night did not turn out as I hoped. I barely had a few winks of sleep. The thunder storm raging outside was startling me from my sleep and kept me up all night long.

In Alifushi Island (Day 1)

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We arrived in Alifushi Island at around 11:30 AM on Thursday 20th of February. The first thing I wanted to know about the Island was if they had any cafés so that I could go and have some breakfast after the long journey. I came to know that the island had four cafés, of which I visited all with the exception of one, during my three day stay.

That morning, I had breakfast in “Bite” Café. Located near the harbor, it is the café most easily accessible by travellers who are new to the island of Alifushi. I had the local Maldivian breakfast of ‘Roshi and Mashuni” along with a black tea. I was able to get to know some of the inhabitants of the island in about the forty five minutes which took for my breakfast.

From there, we had a man who helped us take our luggage to the house we were staying in. He placed all the bags in a cart and headed to our “home” in Alifushi Island while we began the task of shooting the documentary.

We headed to the Island School as the school sessions in Maldives usually ends at around 12:30 PM. We were fortunate the session had not yet ended; we were able to shoot the students and teachers while they were executing their respective duties. The two story school was like a ground scattered with buildings.

There were about five buildings located inside the school ground. One holding the school hall, the other holding the staff rooms, two buildings occupying the classrooms and the other building was just recently inaugurated by the Ministry of Education. Higher Secondary grades were introduced in June 2013 with single session being introduced just last month. I met a lot of student, teachers and was also able to speak with some of the Heads of Departments and the Principal of the school.

After completing the task in the island school and having lunch at “Bite” Café, we headed to the area with the boatyards. (Did I mention the Island is famous for its skilled workers in the boat building industry?) Entering into the boat yard of Maldives Marine Services, I was flabbergasted, at loss for words, totally dazed by the size of those boats being built in a single yard.

The boats were enormous, some ranging from 120 to 180 feet. There were about 6 to 8 boats in that single yard, all in different stages of constructions. Several employees of the company were at work, including a generous amount of Maldivian youths, which is a scene rarely seen in the capital, Male’ City.

Our tasks for the first day in Alifushi Island settled at around 6:30 PM. After an hour or two in our “home” in the island, we headed out for dinner. This time, it was a new café by the name “Mahlabiyya”. By the time dinner was over, I was too tired to roam around the island. Nonetheless, I could not stop myself from visiting some of the island shops on the main road, “Ameenee Magu”. A two story business outlet called “Two O Two” happened to be my favorite.

And then I faced the daunting task of sleeping alone in a strange island. I began missing my mother, my two little sisters and brother and my boyfriend. I forced myself into thinking happy thoughts, about the new people I would meet on the coming day, the new experiences I was going to have on the island over the phase of the next two days; and I fell into a dreamless sleep.

Journey to Alifushi Island

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This weekend I visited Raa Atoll Alifushi Island on a work trip, accompanied by a cameraman. We were there to make a documentary about the island and I made use of this opportunity to meet new people and share it with the different communities around the world.

The journey to the island, in a speed launch of the Jazeeraa Ferry Services took about five long hours. I am not accustomed to travelling for long by sea and it was a whole new experience. There were times when I felt nauseous but all in all, those five hours I spent in the ferry with about 10 more people proved to be a gateway which revealed the hidden beauty of Maldives.

After travelling for about 4 hours, we reached Raa Atoll in the Northern region of the country and began making stops in several islands; however, I am not able to recall the names of all the islands. At first, we made a stop near an island with few infrastructures. A huge proportion of the island must have been trees and vegetation. Then we stopped at an island with a harbor which will be best designated as unusually vast for an island in the Maldives. The next island must have been Dhuvaafaru. New housing infrastructure was ongoing and I’m assuming this island to be Dhuvaafaru as the island is being reconstructed by the government after the Tsunami which struck Maldives in late 2004.

We made a few more stops and finally reached our destination. The first impression I had of Alifushi Island can be best described by the words, “Wow”. I was fascinated by the beauty of seeing both infrastructure and nature being present at the same levels. The island was developed; there was no question or doubt about that. But I had a feeling that the island people had a belief of conjoining development and nature together.

Getting off the ferry and onto the jetty, two huge flags waving in the air caught my sight. These were the flags of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), soaring in the air, side by side, a momentous symbol representing the unity among the island people despite their political differences.