#Male’ #Maldives: Caffeine in the Clubs, Muslims on the Beach

Burqas on the Beach in Male', Maldives

Burqas on the Beach in Male’, Maldives

The Maldives are a string of pearls posing as islands floating gracefully over the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, 1192 nuggets—1000 of them unpopulated—not simply strewn higgeldy-piggledy atoll, but arranged in a double helix and organized into garlands and necklaces and defined by water level as footprints over the ocean surface, any higher the water and they cease to exist as a landmass, demoted like Pluto by science, thereafter to live their life as a mere underwater ridge threatening ships and subs, number three on the international extinction list in fact highest point not much higher than an NBA starting center…

Dockside in Male', Maldives

Dockside in Male’, Maldives

The Maldives must sound like a dream to anyone in Central Asia: Muslims—or me—high up on the hills in the ‘stans or the Kush on the steppes in the bush—cold barren steps to righteousness rewards guaranteed only in Heaven and I’d hedge my bets on that if I were you, where virgins must be bound and chained to maintain ritual purity and you need sheesha, shawarma and shish-kebabs to stay warm, curries lacking punch and pungency for lack of spices, so might as well forget them altogether, get your bellyful of gusto from a goat slowly roasting over charcoal and incense…

Market in Male', Maldives

Market in Male’, Maldives

The Maldives must have been the Islamic paradigm for paradise, pristine waters warm and wonderful, perfectly azure going to like them, gently throbbing surf and all the fish you can eat, French fries and hush-puppies optional, palms gently swaying coconuts bananas and mango for the picking, and a handsome gentle populace, smiles free and willing and a warm island welcome for the tired weary traveler, like Ibn Battutah, the Muslim Marco Polo, way back in the 1300’s, he and his four local wives, not counting slaves, blogging it for the future and trying to civilize the natives, trying to get the women to wear clothes…

Airport Ferry in Male', Maldives

Airport Ferry in Male’, Maldives

That’s no problem today boohoo many wearing full burqa head to toe, others toeing the line of holy writ with fashion scarves and pseudo-veils still others naked-faced and unafraid sucking face in parks with boyfriends just like back home, but some even wearing full burqa in the surf as custom permits if hubby requires it rules and regulations getting tougher all the time…

No one would take a second glance but me and any lifeguard forced to rescue such dead textile weight from the surf, I wonder if they even remove the burqa to copulate and populate, got an eye slit up top should have a pink slit down under for those intimate moments when nothing else will do, most men in the world having never seen their wives naked in the first place, could easily fake it with silicone and lipstick who’d know the difference anyway…

On the Beach near Airport in Male', Maldives

On the Beach near Airport in Male’, Maldives

But the modern nation is a beachy sun-bleachy ‘Muslim Lite’ to be sure, for the most part, thinly veiled women allowed to ride motorbikes and move freely on road and beach, while thinly veiled Rasta-men, cigs dangling from tender lips sip caffeinated drinks in the pubs and clubs, Red Bull instead of Red Hook, the better to stay awake during prayers, yeah right, uh huh, fortunately the Rastas have other sacraments, too, I bet, the better to transmit the DNA of island culture from Caribbean to South Pacific all the way to here, God’s little GMO people half-African half-Indian half-Arabian…

Cafe in Male, Maldives

Cafe in Male, Maldives

Still though she may sell seashells in the Seychelles, he is more likely to be selling them here, managing the women by managing the money, too bad, hawking the same cheap 50’s curio crap that used to be sold in a million souvenir shops, as they’re still called here, from Daytona to Durban to Copacabana to Capetown to here, a guaranteed catch for lackadaisical beachcombers with fewer hairs to comb even than beaches, more tall tales to tell than true travels…

Most tourists go to the fancy resorts, of course, couple hundred bucks a night and up, sipping the pricey drinks that are forbidden to locals, prices so high already no one knows the difference, but I don’t do any of that, I content to be a vulcha in search of kulcha, settling for rice and noodles greased up in the same island way that passes for local in the Caribbean and Pacific, the better to weigh you down in the hot sun and steamy skies, tuna this tuna that fresh from the boat nothing Star-Kist on these starry starry nights, sorry Charlie, we want tuna that tastes good…

Hardship Posting in Male', Maldives

Hardship Posting in Male’, Maldives

You can circumnavigate the entire main island in an hour or so, walking at a moderate pace with time for sight-seeing, the pint-sized capital of Male’ is that small, dodging motorbike maniacs, cafes and boutiques lining streets called ‘magu’ with a distinct nasal accent in my mind’s ear, enterprises ranging from distinct downscale but trending up…

One hour of walking and you’re drenched must shower and start all over again, temps almost constant all day all year no more than 5c/10f variation from low to high, but the night is a different world come alive with heavy metal playing in the park, halogen and benzene, motorbikes backed out into the street like Ramadan at midnight waiting to fill and before the sun comes up…

It almost reminds me of Montego or Bali planes surfing in low onto airstrip promontories, here the airstrip bigger than the big city itself and rickety ferries take you to fragile landmasses still it’s all good fun and unique if not always cheap but that’s all relative, isn’t it? If we can’t be family, then at least we can be friends, that’s the island way, mon, but it’s truly strange to think that some day not long from now this could all be gone, submerged, covered with water and left for future archeologists to pick up the pieces, try to make sense of it all…

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