Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Fusion – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi - tastmakers

A fusion closer to the Maldivian home is Soneva Fushi’s “Tastemaker” who combines Laccadive flavours with a range of Asian flavours drawn from his travels in the region:

  • “Maldivian born and bred, Chef Sobah is considered one of the pioneers of his islands’ rich culinary heritage. As a child, his family’s main source of income was from fishing, and he would help his parents sun-dry and smoke the daily catch. Today, Chef Sobah draws upon the traditional techniques of Maldivian cooking in his Soneva Fushi restaurant, Sobah’s, the first restaurant in the Maldives to offer authentic Maldivian fare with a contemporary twist.”

I’ve added a tag for “Fusion” with this post as so many of the top properties are distinguishing their fare with the flai of inventive combination.

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Cuisine Night – Makunudu

Makunudu - Maldivian cuising night 5

Over two decades I have been to countless “Maldivian Nights” at resort restaurants, but none so extensive as Makunudu’s lavish and authentic spread. Sometimes “Maldivian Night” is primarily little more than a bunch of reef fish curry. But Makunudu’s included all sort of delicacies and ingredients (the photos here provide a sample of the cuisine on offer). My favourite had to be the Fried Tapioca Chips which I had never sampled in all my years visiting despite being a huge tapioca fan.

Makunudu - Maldivian cuisine night 4

Makunudu - Maldivian cuisine night 3

Makunudu - Maldivian cuisine night 2

Makunudu - maldivian cuisine night

Makunudu - maldivian cuisine night 5

Best of the Maldives: Koari – AaaVeee

AaaVeee - Koari decor

One resort that is always dressed in traditional Maldivian garb is AaaVeee. The entire resort is not just inspired by local Maldivian design, but most of the infrastructure was produced in the Maldives itself. In fact, a good number of things like chairs and tables were made on the island by Maldivians using materials from the island itself.

Perhaps the most “Maldivian” aspect is the ubiquitous “koari” adornments. “Koari” means “cone” and is a traditional form of decoration found on the islands. It is a cone made out of palm thatch placed atop a tall pole. I’ve already posted about the koari used to mark the navigation channel to the resort, but it is also used at the reception jetty (see above), in the lagoon (directly below) and various other places across the island. The resort’s chef even baked a “Koari Kake” (below).

AaaVeee - koari entrance

AaaVeee - koari water

AaaVeee - Koari chocolate

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Warrior – Kanuhura

Kanuhura - Maldivian warrior 1

For a traditional twist on military-grade training, Kanuhura offers Maldivian Warrior training…

  • “Maldivian warrior is a bootcamp fitness course on the beach inspired by what Maldivians would have used in the past to keep fit before air-conditioned gyms came to the country. It’s a blend of calisthenics and exercises on the beach using wooden blocks, logs and heavy stones, followed by a swim in the lagoon and a run around the beach (over 3km to get round the island once).”

Kanuhura - Maldivian warrior 3

Kanuhura - Maldivian warrior 2

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Artist Exhibition – Loama Maldives at Maamigili

Loama Maldives at Maamigili - art exhibition

From the extremes of primitive to avant garde, Maldivian artists also excel at classic art forms like oils and etchings. Not surprisingly, that home of the arts, Loama Maldives at Maamigili is an opportune place to sample these masterpieces…

“Loama Art Gallery is affiliated with the National Art Gallery, Maldives, and shows contemporary art from the Maldives. It offers a valuable platform for artists to exhibit and sell their work to a local and international audience. Contemporary art in Maldives has seen significant changes in themes and style over the last few decades. On the Path of a Dream brings together the work of contemporary artists whose diverse and surprising themes examine their innate senses borne while living in the Maldives. These artists have works that span decades and explores their subjects in-depth, visiting and revisiting ideas that form the identity of people inhabiting these islands. Loama Art Gallery aims to hold four exhibitions annually and the current exhibition at the overwater art gallery features five Maldivian artists who we are proud to present”

  • Afzal Shafiu Hassan (directly below) – “although he works mostly with oil water colors. In 1994, at the age of 18, Afu began his professional career as a postages stamp designer at Maldives Post.”
  • Eagan Badheeu (above) – “Impressionist landscapes and seascapes depicting the culture and lifestyle of the Maldives are his signature subjects…He earned initial recognition in the year 2000 when his works were exhibited in ‘Funoas’ (the beginning of southwest monsoon) Art exhibition held at Esjehi Gallery in Malé.”
  • Aminath Hilmy (bottom) – “As a young girl her playground was sea hibiscus groves by the beach on Thinadhoo, Gaaf Dhaal Atoll. Her mother, Fathimath Hussain, was a Kasabu (embroidery) maker and a tailor. These skills were induced to young Aminath Hilmly and is reminiscent in her style of work…Aminath Hilmy has shown her work in Esjehi Gallery and National Art Gallery in Male.”

An this esteemed group is not alone so I have added the new category Tag “Maldivian Artist” to the blog today so you can peruse a virtual exhibition of local mastery.

A summary of the exhibit can be found here.

Loama Maldives at Maamigili - art exhibition 2

Loama Maldives at Maamigili - art exhibition 3

Best of the Maldives: Local Island Bridge – Canareef

Canareef - local island bridge

How do you make a single island into two (not like they need more numbers with 1,900 in the country)? With a canal.

To make it a segregated resort island (since “resort islands” can do things like serve alcohol which “inhabited islands” are prohibited from doing), the original Herathera resort dug a channel to separate the inhabited side of its incredibly long island from the uninhabited side which was being developed in a resort.

Now connected by a handy footbridge (see above), a large portion of the Canareef staff reside on the inhabited staff and walk to work each day. It also provides a the most handy visit to a “local island” as you can simply walk over to visit instead of devoting a whole excursion trip which most resorts offer (the bridge has a security guard to make sure only authorised staff and guest come onto the resort island).

Siamese twin island joined at the bridge.

Canareef - canal

Destination for and Origination of Wealth

Maldives cowrie money

Long before the Maldives was the ultimate destination of the world’s wealthy; it was the ultimate origination of the world’s wealth. The Maldives was the veritable Fort Knox of the nascent global currency system.

The key to value is scarcity – gold, Bitcoins (based on hard to solve problems) – are all premised by the difficulty of counterfeiting because simply can’t magic up more of the stuff easily. It turns out that one of the earliest forms of currency were cowries shells from the Maldives. They were quite distinctive in shape and look and back in ancient times you couldn’t just waltz over the Maldives to gather up a few more.

Today being National Money Day is an apropos time to check out “Stuff You Should Know” which has a fine good account of Maldives cowrie currency in their podcast “How Currency Works” (mins 9:10 through 6:00 – the counter counts down to time left in podcast…thanks Isley).

I recently highlighted the Maldives’ first archaeologist and one of the subjects she is investigating is this very area. Coincidentally (I means big time “it’s a small world”), Haour and Jaufar explore the links of the cowrie trade between Benin, West Africa. “Benin” is now the name of the county neighbouring Togo to the east, but also the designation for the general area. In Togo’s capital Lomé, I resided at the “Université du Benin” and my residence compound was called the “Village du Benin”.

My time in Togo way back in 1980 was the earliest seeds of Maldives Complete. I was stationed there as an overseas correspondent for a firm doing travel writing. Hence, my initiation into research the obscure and fascinating in exotic destinations.

Below are a few of my mementos from my year there – a cowrie voodoo amulet (top), a cowrie bracelet (middle) and a cowrie money shell (bottom). Maybe these shells from the Grand Marche were my first contact with the Maldives over three decades ago?!

Togo cowries

Best of the Maldives: Official Museum – Loama at Maamigili

Loama Resort Maldives at Maamilgili - museum 1

International Museum Day today is a chance to pop down to your local cultural curator. Among the Maldives resorts, the place to go is Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili. While a number of resorts feature displays of artefacts and heritage, Maamagili has developed a sophisticated museum to showcase an unmatched collection of Maldives masterpieces…

“Loama Museum is the first and only Museum in a Hotel in Maldives licensed under the Government’s Department of Heritage. Our young museum collection spans from the Classical to British Colonial Period. Highlights include artefacts found on the island, items of trade and livelihood from the Early Modern or Colonial Period (1514-1828) and British Colonial Period ( 1828-1965). You will be wowed by an Ancient Bath from the Classical Period (500BCE-1153), Mausoleum foundations from the Medieval Islamic Period (1153-1514). The museum is located at the hotel lobby and extends to the Ancient Bath and a Traditional House which are located at the heritage site. Notable exhibits include Chinese porcelain that could have arrived on this island during the Indian Ocean trade between South East Asia and the Middle East. Other interesting artefacts from the collection, representative of the lifestyle and trade that survived inhabitants of these coral atolls for centuries in the middle of the Indian Ocean, include grain measures, coconut oil and lace making equipment.”

Many pieces in the museum come from Loama’s own archaeological work undertaken during the resort development.  Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, writes about this work in blog “Cross Roads of Empires”. She is doing a range of fascinating research studies about the Maldives and did a post on the Loama excavation work titled “Maamigili” (see below).

Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili evcavation

Best of the Maldives: Ancient Bath – Loama Maldives at Maamigili

Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili - ancient well 2

Well, well, well. It turns out that Kihavah isn’t the only resort island with an ancient and storied water well. Loama Maamigili features a well fit for a king. And it was used for much more than just fetching water…

“Vevu (Dhivehi) or bathing tanks, found on the heritage site, were used as public baths and later for ablution. The actual period of this Vevu is unknown, however sandstone used in construction is evidence pointing to the pre-islamic period. The symmetry of the two wells also suggests it may have been part of a temple.”

Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili ancient well

Best of the Maldives: Maldivian Scenes – Hideaway Beach / Conrad Rangali

Hideaway Beach - Maldives art 1

Portraits of the Maldives using a more conventional medium are the latest highlight at Hideaway Beach. The décor in their newly launched Deluxe Sunset Beach Villa features commission by Eagan Badeeu

“Eagan Badeeu is a prominent local artist and Maldivian national treasure, his works mainly focus on abstract or impressionist seascapes and landscapes”

They have an impressionistic feel with a rich texture, colour and light. His work can also be found at Conrad Rangali.

Hideaway Beach - Maldives art 2

Hideaway Beach - Maldives art 3