Maldives: two Island, two worlds ← 19. Juni 2015

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The five-star resort The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi on the Maldives offers a half-day excursion to the neighboring island Hooladuh which is populated by locals not tourists. This is exciting for travelers who like to take a look behind the facade of luxury.

Arrival on the Maldives: the "airport" of The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort

Arrival on the Maldives: the „airport“ of The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort

„When you visit the local island, you will see what Mr. Siyam does for the locals. It´s very basic there, „warns us Haydee from the Dominican Republic who is the marketing manager of the resort. Ahmed Siyam Mohamed (45) born in Male, is the owner of the pretty large five-star luxury resort The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi comprising 221 beach villas and over-water bungalows (check out German version). We are told that he is a self-made man who started with $ 900 and worked his way up from rags to riches not forgetting his humble background. At least 90 of the 645 hotel employees come from Hooladuh, but most live in a separate part of the hotel island in double occupation rooms of about ten sqm. We therefore wonder what to expect on the “basic” island of Hooladuh. Ramshackle shacks like in the townships of South Africa? Smelly sewers as in Nigeria’s capital Lagos? Or tent dwellings with UHNCR logo as currently in Lebanon or Jordan?

Approaching the Maldives from above

Approaching the Maldives from above

We arrive at 11 o´clock am on Hooladuh after an half an hour Speedboat ride from the luxury resort. The day is hot (35°C/95°F ) even by Maldivian standards. Few people are on the road. On the beach lies a man in shorts and t-shirt on a kind of roofed pedestal, about 40 centimeters high. The tiled pedestal provides long-awaited coolness. In contrast the women are standing under the trees and take care of the children. They are always veiled from head to toe, often all in black, sometimes colorful, only the face is exposed.

Headquarters of the opposition party bearing the Image of ex-president Nasheed, the first democratically elected head of state of the island republic

Headquarters of the opposition party bearing the Image of ex-president Nasheed, the first democratically elected head of state of the island republic

No trace of slums or negligence. The houses are bright green, light blue or lemon yellow, and above all, they are well maintained. The few roads are paved and so straight that from the central intersection of the village, the opposite shore is visible. On the main road that leads from the port into the town center, we pass a young woman in her mid-twenties dressed from head to toe in traditional black riding a blue bicycle operating her mobile phone. A delightful contrast to outsiders, but we westerners can only imagine how this outfit feels in the heat.

Trip to the island of the locals: Young woman on Hooladuh

Trip to the island of the locals: Young woman on Hooladuh

Around 20 percent of hotel guests make the excursion to Hooladuh. Such trips are not real life, but for Maldives travelers they offer a rare opportunity to get in touch with locals of the Muslim State with about 330000 inhabitants. We see that unemployment is high: a lot of men spend their morning in the village pub. They do not let their wives stay alone on the Hotel Island: Local women showing their Maldivian cooking skills at the Hotel Buffet are brought home every night by speedboat. We learn that the former President Mohamed Nasheed is still popular amongst many locals. „Nasheed’s one of us, he knows how we feel,“ tells us a local at a village restaurant behind closed doors.

The entire Maldive achipelago ist distinctly divided into islands for tourists and locals. Tourists staying at the luxury resort The Sun Siyam Irufushi can book half-day trips to Hooladuh.

The entire Maldive achipelago ist distinctly divided into islands for tourists and locals. Tourists staying at the luxury resort The Sun Siyam Irufushi can book half-day trips to Hooladuh.

We pass the party offices of the two Maldivian parties, one of the buildings bears the image of former president Nasheed. A bit away stands a bright building in orange-purple-green: The kindergarten has an equally colorful playground including rockinghorse and slide made of hard plastic. A familiar sight for us just more colorful than usual. Longer stays outside the tourist islands require a special permit from the Maldivian Atoll Administration. Vive versa locals cannot just enter hotel islands, unless they work there. In our case, we are guided by two hotel employees, Jauzee, 26, and Ismail, 30, on her native island. Jauzee works as a butler, Ismail works at the leisure center of the resort. Jauzee dreamed to become a seaplane pilot, but the $ 100,000 training was to costly for him.

Fairyland Maldives: So-called water bungalows, accessable by lengthy footbridges are typical for luxury resorts like The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi.

Fairyland Maldives: So-called water bungalows, accessable by lengthy footbridges are typical for luxury resorts like The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi.

Back in the luxury resort a conversation ensues in the evening between marketing woman Haydee and the hotel manager Ahmed Rifau. They wonder where exactly the public whipping will take place of the woman who was pregnant out of wedlock. The answer: in front of the Palace of Justice. Pregnancy out of wedlock is prohibited on the Maldives, as is alcohol or pornography. When asked about his opinion Rifau responds: „I do not even think about it because I would never do anything that is against the law.“

Maldives: Employee on a bicycle moves along the endless footbridges of the hotel island.

Maldives: Employee on a bicycle moves along the endless footbridges of the hotel island.

It is not so much the contrast of the living conditions between luxury resort and „poor“ native Island, which attracts attention. The former is a somewhat artificial world with water bungalows and endless footbridges typical for the Maldives, the other a normal residential island. Both are beautiful. It is the contrast between the reality of everyday life, with its harsh islamic laws, and the breathtaking turquoise and peaceful sea idyll of an archipelago republic. 80 percent of the guests at Iru Fushi never realize this contrast: They arive in the capital Male, are led to a chic lounge by their hotel’s staff and departure by seaplane to their island with its dream bungalows, dream beaches and dream restaurants. A Maldives trip is a journey that you should have made at least once in a lifetime, provided your budget allows for it. How many times have you been on Hooladuh, I want to know after the trip from marketing manager Haydee? “Not yet.”

More breathtaking pictures of the Maldives can be found here: “Malediven: Zwischen Hai und Hirnkoralle

General information: www.visitmaldives.com, check out the maldivian independant newspaper here. The Maldives will be partner of the world biggest tourism fair ITB 2016 in Berlin / Germany.

Getting there: Various direct flights from european and american airports straight to the capital Male, some with a stopover in Abu Dhabi. From Male 40 minutes by seaplane (try to secure a window seat, the flight is spectacular!).

Accommodation: Package deals are cheaper, the price difference between B&B and half board are low. 7 days half board incl. flights and seaplane transfer in November starts from about 4500 Euro.

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi: At the Maldivian evening local cooks from the island Hooladuh show their cooking skills

The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi: At the Maldivian evening local cooks from the island Hooladuh show their cooking skills

Food and drink: The food quality in the Maldives is excellent. However visitors should remember that every kilo – whether coconut or caviar – incurs more than four euros transportation costs. On The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi one can choose between 15 different restaurants, including a French, Italian, Indian (closest to the Maldivian cuisine) as well as a Teppanyaki grill with Japanese cuisine. Tip: Once a week the local cooks prepare Maldivian cuisine – a good opportunity for a chat, as the younger people all speak English.

Language: Dhivehi, English on the tourist islands.

Currency: 1 Euro = approximately 16.3 Rufiyaa (MVR), US $ accepted

Optimal Travel time: January to March, but basically all year warm and mostly sunny. Wet season from June to October. Cheaper prices outside the wet season in April, May and November.

Import bans:, among others for pork, alcohol and media with pornographic content. Caution: The threshold of what is pornographic, is significantly lower in the Muslim island nation than in the west.

The article was supported (press trip) from The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi

 

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  • shawn - 13. Juni 2016 Antworten

    What a truly misguiding, unethical, wrong article. Clearly written to misguide and misinform.

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