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Museums and art in the Maldives

The Maldives is full of culture and if you are a museum enthusiast, then you will find plenty of themed museums to keep you entertained and always learning – here are the best museums and places for art in the Maldives.
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National Museum

If you think the Maldives is all about beaches, islands, overwater villas, and fresh local food, you would be right, but there are a few cultural hotspots to visit if you want to get to know the country on a deeper level.

If you are the type to spend time learning about the history of a country, the language, or are captivated by architecture and art, then you cannot miss out on these best cultural spots. It’s all about balance, right?

Here are the best places to discover fascinating art and history in the Maldives.

History Museums

The National Museum

The National Museum
Source: https://www.themaldivesexpert.com/4503/top-attractions-in-male-the-national-museum/ | Photo Credit: The National Museum, Malé

Ideally located in Sultan Park in the capital city Male, this gives you the perfect opportunity to visit the museum either before or after your beach stay. Given that this is the main history museum in the Maldives, you will get a great impression of the past, present, and future of this wonderful country, which will provide you with a completely different perspective if you have just spent time on the islands. Some of the main things you can discover in this extraordinary three-story museum include

  • A coral stone buddha head, which dates back to the 11th Century
  • An engraved wooden plank that dates back to the 13th Century
  • The Feyli Kolhu, which is a perfect example of the famous handweaving skills of the islands, was worn by the Sultan.

Before 2012, there were many historical artifacts and Buddha statues that were destroyed that year during an attack and although a few of them could be saved or rebuilt, many of them which existed from coral and limestone just disintegrated. The museum is on the same site as the Maldivian Royal Palace which is a sight to see in itself and holds historical significance in the history of the country. 

There is a rather varied selection of other things to see here including crafts for which the nation is known, as well as many pre-Islamic era artifacts like coins, costumes, armor, and other notable relics, which history buffs can enjoy. The museum which opened on July 26th which is the National Day of the country is a place that is held close to the hearts of the people, storing some of the last remaining glimpses into the past, making it one of the best places to discover Maldivian culture and history.

This cultural tour of the Maldives could be the perfect balance for those looking for more than just a beach holiday.

Art

National Museum

While the National Museum is the main focal point to learn about the country’s history, art lovers can rejoice in knowing that art can be found throughout the island country, and the majority of it does not live in an art gallery or art museum. If there is one thing that the Maldivians are famous for and very skilled at, it is their fascinating handicrafts, which hold valuable and historical significance.

While these days many souvenirs and crafts are imported from other countries, it is worth paying a visit to traditional and authentic handicraft stores, to witness old traditions and to take home a piece of genuine history. Many handicrafts are made using coconut shells, reeds, palm leaves, and woven mats among other traditional products, and it is common to come across traditional boats, handmade jewelry, and a host of woven items, all of which have been made in an old-fashioned way.

If you find yourself island hopping while in the Maldives, you should know that each island specializes in its craft, and you can discover a variety of beautiful creations on each island. While the silversmiths of Rinbudhoo are well known, the lacquer workers on the island of Eydafushi are known for their top-quality skills as well as the hand weavers from the island of Gaddhoo. The most fascinating thing about these crafts is that they are made by some of the most skilled people in the world, and the methods used have been handed down from generation to generation, which makes this one of the most amazing ways to discover art in the Maldives.

Types of crafts:

  • Jewelry: Most famously made on the island of Rinbudhoo, which is well known for producing gold jewelry, while the island of Huludeli is known for its stunning silver jewelry. 
  • Coir Rope Making: This is one of the most traditional handicrafts and is used to make traditional boats, as well as hammocks and even houses. You will find that it is mainly women who have learned this skill, which has been passed through the generations. 
  • Lacquer: This involves many varieties of wood, whichever is available locally when needed, to create bowls, utensils, boxes, and vases, to which layers of lacquer are added. 
  • Woven mats: This dying weaving method traditionally used plants to create the fibers and the colored dyes to create amazing works of art. This form of weaving takes quite a long time to create, and sadly has started to become scarce, but if you get the chance to go and see this weaving method, you absolutely must.:

As well as handicrafts, art comes in many forms in the Maldives and you will find traditional song and dance (Bodu Beru), literature, and architecture as well as forms of visual arts which have become more popular these days among budding artists.

The National Art Gallery of the Maldives

The National Art Gallery of the Maldives
Source: https://www.themaldivestravel.com/the-national-art-gallery-in-the-maldives-art-thou-into-art.html | Img by: zhuwei06191973 via Pixabay

Located in the capital of Male, a trip here can tie in quite well with a visit to the National Museum. Here you will witness works of art by local and international artists, from paintings and photographs to solo exhibitions and arts and crafts. If you are into the art niche, it is worth planning a trip here in advance, to see what events and exhibitions will be showcased, but by planning your tailor-made trip with your Destination Expert, you can get the help of a local. 

As a bonus, the National Gallery also houses the country’s National Library, which was established in 1945, to preserve Maldivian literature – another interesting form of art that captivates many. It serves as the country’s public and national library, with a variety of sections with books in many languages, as well as specialized collections of all of the country’s written documentation and published writings are held here.

Architectural places of interest

National Museum

While many of the incredible resorts will blow you away with their architectural styles, there are a few historical places of interest to keep your eyes open for.

  • The Royal Palace in Male
  • Victory Monument in Male
  • Hulhumale Mosque
  • Old Friday Mosque
  • Tsunami Monument
  • Sinamale Bridge (Friendship Bridge)

So, whether you are planning to spend the majority of your time unwinding in the infinity pool, indulging in the local food, or marveling at the vast array of marine life in the clear oceans, you should know that there is always a little bit of culture hidden around every corner in this diverse country, just waiting to be discovered. 

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