This article is about the capital of the Maldives. For the Italian municipality, see Malè.

Aerial view of the whole of Malé on the eponymous island as seen from the southwest

Location of Malé in the Maldives

Coordinates: MV 04°10′31″N 073°30′32″E / 4.17528°N 73.50889°E / 4.17528; 73.50889
Country Maldives
Geographic atoll North Malé Atoll
  Council Malé City Council (MDP)
  Mayor Mohammed Shihab
  Total 5.8 km2 (2.2 sq mi)
Elevation 2.4 m (7.9 ft)
Population (2014)[1]
  Total 133,412[1]
  Density 23,002/km2 (59,570/sq mi)
Time zone MVT (UTC+05:00)
Assigned Letter T
Area code(s) 331, 332, 333, 334
ISO 3166 code MV-MLE

Malé (/ˈmɑːl./, local pronunciation: [ˈmɑːlɛ] Maldivian: މާލެ) is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. With a population of 133,412[1] and an area of 5.8 square kilometres (2.2 sq mi), it is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world.[2] The city is geographically located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll (Kaafu Atoll).[3] Administratively, the city consists of a central island, an airport island, and two other islands governed by the Malé City Council.

Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient royal dynasties ruled and where the palace was located. The city was then called Mahal.[4] 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 in 1968. However, the Malé Friday Mosque remains. In recent years, the island has been considerably expanded through land-filling operations. Over the years, Malé has been the center of political protests and milestone events.


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 the central island and serves as the heart of all commercial activities in the country.[5]

The central island is heavily urbanized, with the built-up area taking up essentially its entire landmass.[5] 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 Maldivians and foreign workers living in other parts of the country find themselves in occasional short term residence on the island since it is the centre of administration and bureaucracy.

Bank of Maldives


Friday Mosque in Malé


The whole island group, the Maldives, is named after its capital. The word "Maldives" means "the islands (dives) of Malé'".[6]


The first settlers in the Maldivian islands were Dravidian people[7] 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.[8]

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).[9] 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.

Street scene in Malé



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 °C (86 °F) and an average low of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F), which is equivalent to many equatorial cities' average year round daily mean. The city averages slightly more than 1,600 mm (63 in) of precipitation annually.

Climate data for Malé (1981–2000, extremes 1966–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 32.8
Average high °C (°F) 30.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 28.0
Average low °C (°F) 25.7
Record low °C (°F) 20.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 114.2
Average rainy days 6 3 5 9 15 13 12 13 15 15 13 12 131
Average relative 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 248.4 257.8 279.6 246.8 223.2 202.3 226.6 211.5 200.4 234.8 226.1 220.7 2,778.2
Source #1: World Meteorological Organization[10]
Source #2: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961-1990),[11] Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[12]


The crowded skyline of Malé
Wards 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.[13][14][15]

Nr. Division Area
Census 2006
Density (Pop. per km2)
1 Henveiru 59.123,59739,927.2 Malé Island
2 Galolhu 27.619,41470,340.6 Malé Island
3 Machchangolhi 32.619,58060,061.3 Malé Island
4 Maafannu 75.929,96439,478.3 Malé Island
1-4 Malé (Island) 195.292,55547,415.5 Malé Island
5 Vilimalé 31.86,95621,874.2 Villingili Island
6 Hulhumalé 200.92,8661,426.6 Artificial island
- Hulhule 151.91,316866.4 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 50–60 m (160–200 ft) deep wells in the city and desalinates that using reverse osmosis.[16] Electric power is generated in the city using diesel generators.[17] Sewage is pumped unprocessed into the sea.[16] 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.[18][19]

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.


Malé Airport

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[20] as does the airline FlyMe.[21] Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, on nearby Hulhulé Island, is the city's airport and the principal airport in Maldives.

City Council

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

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "TABLE PP 9: TOTAL MALDIVIAN POPULATION BY SEX AND LOCALITY (ATOLLS), 2014". Statistics Maldives. National Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  2. "Population explosion; a major environmental issue in Male'". ECOCARE Maldives. Archived from the original on 2012-03-03. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  3. "Silver Marlin, Maldives - About Maldives". Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  4. Naseema Mohamed. "Names of Maldives" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  5. 1 2 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 (PDF). United States Navy Publication 173 (seventh ed.). Bethesda, Maryland: United States National Imagery and Mapping Agency. pp. 109110. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014.
  6. Caldwell, Comparative Dravidian Grammar, p. 27-28
  7. Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom
  8. 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.
  9. A Concise Etymological Vocabulary of Dhivehi Language. Hasan A. Maniku. Speedmark. Colombo 2000
  10. "World Weather Information Service - Malé". WMO. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  11. "Malé Climate 1961-90". NOAA. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  12. "Station Malé" (in French). Meteo Climat. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  13. "Gulhi Falhu project to begin early 2008". Miadhu Daily. Male. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014.
  14. "Pres. visits Gulhi Falhu". Miadhu Daily. Male. 28 December 2010. Archived from the original on 28 December 2010.
  15. "Maldives first amusement park opens in Gulhi Falhu". Minivan News. Male. 1 December 2013. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014.
  16. 1 2 Malé Water & Sewage Company Pvt Ltd. "Malé Water & Sewage FAQ". Archived from the original on 11 January 2008.
  17. Stelco. "Corporate Profile: State Electric Company Ltd (STELCO)". Archived from the original on 16 November 2007.
  18. United Nations Environmental Programme. "Management of Solid Waste and Sewage" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 March 2012.
  19. Waheed, Abdullah. "Gold in Garbage — the Experience from Maldives" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 July 2007.
  20. "Contact Us." Maldivian. Retrieved on 29 April 2011. "Corporate Head Office No: 26, Ameer Ahmed Magu Male' 20026, Rep Of Maldives"
  21. Home. FlyMe. Retrieved on 29 April 2011. "Villa House, 5th Floor No.7, Kandidhonmanik Goalhi P.O.Box 2073, Male’, Maldives"

Further reading

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