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Bird's-eye view of Malé island as seen from southwest
Bird's-eye view of the central Malé island as seen from southwest
Malé is located in Maldives
Location of Malé in the Maldives
Country Maldives
Geographic atoll North Malé Atoll
Distance to Malé 0 km (0 mi)
 • Council Malé City Council
 • Mayor Maizan Ali Manik (M)
 • Total 5.798 km2 (2.239 sq mi)
Elevation 2.4 m (7.9 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 105,000
 • Density 18,000/km2 (47,000/sq mi)
Time zone MST (UTC+05:00)
Assigned Letter T
Area code(s) 331, 332, 333, 334
ISO 3166 code MV-MLE
Website Malé city council
Wards of Malé

Malé (; Dhivehi: މާލެ) is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives.

The city is geographically located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll (Kaafu Atoll). Administratively, it is a city-class constituency and is governed by the Malé City Council. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where the palace was located. The city was then called "Mahal". Formerly it was a walled city surrounded by fortifications and gates (doroshi). The Royal Palace (Gan'duvaru) was destroyed along with the picturesque forts (kotte) and bastions (buruzu) when the city was remodelled under President Ibrahim Nasir's rule in the aftermath of the abolition of the monarchy. However, the beautifully decorated Malé Friday Mosque remains. In recent years, the island has been considerably expanded through land-filling operations. Over the years, with the fight for democracy, Malé has been the epicenter of political protests and milestone events.


  • Overview 1
  • History 2
    • Etymology 2.1
    • Origins 2.2
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
    • Subdivisions 3.2
  • Economy 4
  • City Council 5
    • Members 5.1
  • Sister cities and twin towns 6
  • See also 7
  • Footnotes 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


Although Malé is geographically located in Kaafu Atoll, administratively it is not considered part of it. The central part of the city is formed by the island of Malé. Three more islands form part of the city. A commercial harbour is located on Malé Island and serves as the heart of all commercial activities in the country.[1]

The central island is heavily urbanized, with the built-up area taking up essentially its entire landmass.[1] Slightly less than one third of the nation's population lives in the capital city, and the population has increased from 20,000 people in 1987 to 100,000 people in 2006. Many, if not most, Maldivians and foreign workers in Maldives find themselves in occasional short term residence on the island since it is the only entry point to the nation and the centre of all administration and bureaucracy.



The whole island group, the Maldives, is named after its capital. The word "Maldives" means "The islands (dives) of Malé'".[2]


The first settlers in the Maldivian islands were Dravidian people[3] who arrived from the neighboring shores of the modern Indian Subcontinent and coastal Ceylon. Comparative studies of Maldivian linguistic, oral, and other cultural traditions, in addition to folklore, point to a strong Dravidian influence on Maldivian society, centered in Malé, from ancient times. The people of Giraavaru, an island located in Malé Atoll (now a tourist resort, after the forced diaspora of its inhabitants) claim to descend from the first settlers of the Maldives, none other than the ancient Tamils.[4]

It is said that Giraavaru fishermen used to go regularly to a certain large sandbank (finolhu) at the southern end of their atoll to clean tuna fish after a good catch. Owing to the large amount of tuna fish offal and blood, the waters around that sandbank looked like a big pool of blood (maa ley gandeh). "Maa" (from the Sanskrit मह "Maha"), meaning big, and "Lē" meaning blood. Traditionally the first inhabitants of the Maldives, which include the Giravaru people, didn't have kings. They lived in a simple society and were ruled by local headmen.

However, one day, a prince from the Subcontinent called Koimala arrived in the Malé Atoll sailing from the North on a big ship. The people of Giraavaru spotted his vessel from afar and welcomed him. They allowed Prince Koimala to settle on that large sandbank in the midst of the waters tainted with fish blood. Trees were planted on the sandbank and it is said that the first tree that grew on it was the papaya tree. However this could refer to any tree that bears edible fruit as the archaic Dhivehi word (and Mahal word even today) for fruit was the same as that for the papaya (falhoa).[5] As time went by the local islanders accepted the rule of this Northern Prince. A palace was built and the island was formally named Maa-le (Malé), while the nearest island was named Hulhu-le.

The names of the main four wards or divisions of Malé Island are said to have been given by the aboriginal Giraavaru fishermen: Maafannu from "maa" (big) and "fannu" (a place where a village path meets the sea), Henveiru from "en-beyru" (out where fishermen got their bait), Galolhu from "galu-olhu" (stone groove) and, Macchangolhi from "mathi-angolhi" (windward path-fork).

The modern-day city was founded as a trading post by the Portuguese in the 16th century.



Malé has a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification. The city features a mix of both wet and dry seasons, with the wet season lasting from May through December and the dry season covering the remaining four months. Unlike a number of cities with this climate, Malé experiences relatively consistent temperatures throughout the course of the year, with an average high of 30 degrees Celsius and an extremely high average low of 26.5 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to many equatorial cities' average year round daily mean. The city averages slightly more than 1600 mm of precipitation annually.
Climate data for Malé
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.0
Average low °C (°F) 25.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 75.2
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 4.6 3.5 6.1 9.1 14.3 12.9 11.9 12.8 15.8 14.6 13.3 11.8 130.7
% humidity 78.0 77.0 76.9 78.1 80.8 80.7 79.1 80.5 81.0 81.7 82.2 80.9 79.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 248.0 259.9 279.0 246.0 223.2 201.0 226.3 210.8 201.0 235.6 225.0 220.1 2,778.2
Source: NOAA[6]


The crowded skyline of Malé

The city is divided into six divisions, four of which are on Malé Island: Henveiru, Galolhu, Maafannu and Macchangolhi. The nearby island of Vilingili, formerly a tourist resort and prior to that a prison, is the fifth division (Vilimalé). The sixth division is Hulhumalé, an artificial island settled since 2004. In addition, the airport Island Hulhule is part of the city. Plans have been made to develop the Gulhi Falu reef, implementation began in 2008.[7][8][9]

Nr. Division Area
Census 2006
1 Henveiru 59.1 23,597 39,927.2 Malé Island
2 Galolhu 27.6 19,414 70,340.6 Malé Island
3 Machchangolhi 32.6 19,580 60,061.3 Malé Island
4 Maafannu 75.9 29,964 39,478.3 Malé Island
1-4 Malé (Island) 195.2 92,555 47,415.5 Malé Island
5 Vilimalé 31.8 6,956 21,874.2 Villingili Island
6 Hulhumalé 200.9 2,866 1,426.6 Artificial island
- Hulhule 151.9 1,316 866.4 Airport Island
- Gulhi Falhu - - - Planned Port Island
  Malé (city) 579.8 103,693 17,884.3  

The Island of Malé is the fifth most densely populated island in the world, and it is the 168th most populous island in the world. Since there is no surrounding countryside, all infrastructure has to be located in the city itself. Water is provided from desalinated ground water; the water works pumps brackish water from 50-60m deep wells in the city and desalinates that using reverse osmosis.[10] Electric power is generated in the city using diesel generators.[11] Sewage is pumped unprocessed into the sea.[10] Solid waste is transported to nearby islands, where it is used to fill in lagoons. The airport was built in this way, and currently the Thilafushi lagoon is being filled in.[12][13]

Many government buildings and agencies are located on the waterfront. Malé International Airport is on adjacent Hulhule Island which includes a seaplane base for internal transportation. Several land reclamation projects have expanded the harbour.


Tourism is the largest industry in the Maldives, accounting for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. The GDP per capita expanded by 265% in the 1980s and a further 115% in the 1990s. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Malé, the capital, has many tourist attractions and nearby resorts. The central harbour and port of the Maldives is located in Malé, the centre for all commercial activities. Maldivian, the airline of the Maldives, has its head office in Malé[14] as does the airline FlyMe.[15]

City Council

Sultans Gardens Park
A road in Malé, with the wall of Dharumavantha School on the right, and the old Parliament Building across the road.

Malé City Council is the local government body responsible for the governance of the city of Malé. The council was created in 2011, with the enactment of the Decentralization Bill, which saw the introduction of local governance to the country.

The city is divided into 11 political wards each with one councillor. The majority of current councillors, elected in the country's second local council elections in 2014, is from the Maldivian Democratic Party.


Ward Code Name First elected Party
Hulhu-Henveiru T01 Mohammed Sajid 2014 PPM
Medhu-Henveiru T02 Zaidhul Ameen 2014 PPM
Henveiru-Dhekunu T03 Ibrahim Nimal 2014 MDP
Galolhu-Uthuru T04 Shifa Mohammed 2014 MDP
Galolhu-Dhekunu T05 Fathimath Rizveen 2014 MDP
Machchangolhi-Uthuru T06 Mohammed Rasheed 2014 MDP
Machchangolhi-Dhekunu T07 Ibrahim Mamnoon 2014 PPM
Maafannu-Uthuru T08 Mohammed Shihab 2014 MDP
Maafannu-Hulhangu T09 Shamau Shareef 2014 MDP
Maafannu-Dhekunu T10 Ahmed Rishwaan 2014 MDP
Vili-Maafannu T11 Hussain Shareef 2014 MDP

Sister cities and twin towns

Malé is twinned with the following locations.

Country City State / Region
Taiwan Kaohsiung Southern Taiwan
Djibouti Djibouti Djibouti Region
Sri Lanka Colombo Western Province

See also


  1. ^ a b National Imagery and Mapping Agency (US) (2002). "Sector 5. The Laccadive Islands and the Maldive Islands". Sailing Directions (Enroute): India and the Bay of Bengal. United States Navy Publication 173 (seventh ed.). Bethesda, Maryland: United States National Imagery and Mapping Agency. pp. 109–110. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Caldwell, Comparative Dravidian Grammar, p. 27-28
  3. ^ Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom
  4. ^ Maloney, Clarence (1995). "Where Did the Maldives People Come From?". IIAS Newsletter (International Institute for Asian Studies) (5). Archived from the original on 29 January 2002. 
  5. ^ A Concise Etymological Vocabulary of Dhivehi Language. Hasan A. Maniku. Speedmark. Colombo 2000
  6. ^ "Male Climate Normals 1961-1990".  
  7. ^ "Gulhi Falhu project to begin early 2008". Miadhu Daily (Male). 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pres. visits Gulhi Falhu". Miadhu Daily (Male). 28 December 2010. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. 
  9. ^ "Maldives first amusement park opens in Gulhi Falhu". Minivan News (Male). 1 December 2013. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Malé Water & Sewage Company Pvt Ltd. "Malé Water & Sewage FAQ". Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. 
  11. ^ Stelco. "Corporate Profile: State Electric Company Ltd (STELCO)". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. 
  12. ^ United Nations Environmental Programme. "Management of Solid Waste and Sewage" (PDF). Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Waheed, Abdullah. "Gold in Garbage — the Experience from Maldives" (PDF). Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. 
  14. ^ "Contact Us." Maldivian. Retrieved on 29 April 2011. "Corporate Head Office No: 26, Ameer Ahmed Magu Male' 20026, Rep Of Maldives"
  15. ^ Home. FlyMe. Retrieved on 29 April 2011. "Villa House, 5th Floor No.7, Kandidhonmanik Goalhi P.O.Box 2073, Male’, Maldives"

Further reading

  • H. C. P. Bell, The Maldive Islands, An account of the physical features, History, Inhabitants, Productions and Trade. Colombo 1883, ISBN 81-206-1222-1
  • H.C.P. Bell, The Maldive Islands; Monograph on the History, Archaeology and Epigraphy. Reprint Colombo 1940. Council for Linguistic and Historical Research. Malé 1989
  • H.C.P. Bell, Excerpta Maldiviana. Reprint Asian Educational Services. New Delhi 2002
  • Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom. Barcelona 1999, ISBN 84-7254-801-5

External links

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