Thinadhoo Island is the capital of Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and has its own dialect of Dhivehi and its own unique history. This island was formerly known as Havaru Thinadhoo. ‘Havaru’ refers to the bloodstained attempts by a Sultan in Maldives to capture the island during the 16th century. After years of prosperity and fortune, the ‘havaru’ events of the 16th century recurred in February 1962.
In 4 February 1962 Thinadhoo was completely destroyed on the orders of Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir to end the separatist movement of the United Suvadive Republic. The islanders were told to go to the shallow reef, where they were forced to stand for hours in water up to their necks. Meanwhile all houses were destroyed, all wells broken and filled with rubble, all trees were cut down and much property was looted while the islanders watched.
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.
1. Male’, the capital of Maldives, inhabited by over one third of the country’s total population, is seen as a concrete jungle. The country’s GDP increased by 7.3 percent from 1997 to 2012, mainly due to the contributions of the many foreigners visiting and working here.
2. Bangladeshi construction workers unloading materials from a lorry in Majeedhi Magu of Male’. Since the year 2000, construction industry has progressed significantly in Maldives while the majority of employees in the industry are Bangladeshi nationals.
3. Employees at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital cleaning the hospital gate and walls. Many Indian nationals are filling a range of posts at the hospital, as doctors and janitors, while the hospital is a grant aid from the Indian government.
4. Firboaz Yoosuf, 23, an Indian, has been working as a street vendor in Male’ for the past six months. While many foreigners are involved in this business, their tastes and delicacies are being accepted and adopted by the local Maldivians, including the Paan which has now been locally named as Molhu Bileiy Gandu.
5. A foreigner riding a bicycle loaded with waste on the Bodu Thakuru Faanu Magu in Male’. The local population of the country is not involved in low profile jobs such as carrying waste, and it is the foreigners that contribute to the economy by carrying out this key job.
6. A group of foreigners selling fruits and vegetables at the Male’ local market. Apart from working as vendors, foreigners are also involved in the primary industry of the country, sometimes working as fishermen and farmers.
7. Mohamed Aleem, 30, has been working at a sewing station in Male’ for the past six years. While the demand for such sewing stations among local women is great, the majority of male workers in this field are foreigners from neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.
8. A foreign man at work near the Male’ waste area, collecting reusable items to sell at the Neelan Fihaara or second hand market. The second hand market is popular among the low income populations and expatriates living and working in the country.
9. Staff of Villa Gas loading gas cylinders onto a lorry. While Maldives has two main gas companies, Maldive Gas and Villa Gas, most of the workers employed in delivering gas cylinders are expatriates.
10. A tourist couple taking a walk near the Male’ sea wall at the Artificial Beach area. The Sea Wall, a grant aid from the Japanese government, helps in protecting the island just 1.5 meters above sea level, from the destructive waves of the ocean. Meanwhile, over a million tourists visited Maldives last year, contributing immensely to the country’s development and economy.
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.