Maldives inside from an outsider


I always find it fascinating to read about Maldives from an outsider’s pen and perspective.

Such a small community, living in such close confinement of each other, with no space to escape into, with a weird mix of culture and modernism definitely gives the foreigner something to be amused by.

This latest book I am reading is by J.J. Robinson. The title of the book “The Maldives: Islamic Republic Tropical Autocracy” is such a confronting one. As a Maldivian, I hate to see it being judged, at the same time I see why it is judged the way it is. It’s very difficult to remain impartial with one’s ideology given the crazy state of affairs. The Maldives politics has always been a tumult one – that is if one really dug deep in to the history and read without biases.

This book is definitely biased towards the modern democracy. However, it is also an unbiased account of an outsider experiencing Maldives from the inside up-close.

It has been written in a very engaging manner, with good humor even under the very tense times the author had to endure.

I definitely had a few LOLs here and there, a raised eyebrow, a quickening heartbeat with tension, a flushed face of embarrassment at our situation, and…

Most were not mere one-line reactions but long and thoughtful responses that put comments on news websites in the developed world to shame. At the same time, seemingly innocuous comments had to be carefully read to the end–the really heinous stuff was often slipped into the last sentence, or written in Dhivehi to befuddle the foreign audience (out of shame? I could never tell). (p. 49)

In the first few years after I arrived, the greatest challenge to our reporting was far more prosaic: Maldivian phone etiquette…triggering an awkward and confusing dance as you tried to establish their identity from the non-committal grunting”. (p.54)

The flip-side was exceptional access. It was normal to ring or SMS cabinet ministers for direct comment, or, as they were all social junkies, message them on Facebook or Twitter. (p. 55)

A note on Maldivian naming conventions: Maldivians are given Islamic names, mixed with some traditional Maldivian names (such as “Didi”). Rather than defaulting to surname or forename, people usually refer to a person by their most unique identified: for example, Ahmed Nazeer’s friends will call him “Nazeer”. To further distinguish themselves, many Maldivians adopt a nickname through which they are known to the wider community–even if this does not appear on formal documents. These can be taken from a business, house, or just made up or given by friends, and are commonly used even in official circles… Former President Mohamed Nasheed, for example, is commonly referred to by supporters as “Anni. (p. ix)

Here’s the contents page


Let me quote just one more that had me lolling and nodding 🙂

Most young male Maldivians went into debt to own one [a moped] as it was considered a prerequisite to getting a girlfriend (p. 33)

I find the term “moped” fascinating. We islanders never called it that. We say cyke or “saikalu”. And usually associate it in our mind to “motorbike”. But the use of the term moped became somewhat popular after an al-Jazeera documentary.


Mopeds belonging to employees or clients of Bank of Maldives, Ministry of Economic Development, and other offices and cafes around the location. Photo taken from the balcony of a restaurant in the area. Can’t remember the name. Photo taken late 2013 – by now this will be even more congested I’m sure.


Me on my moped, capturing others on theirs on the narrow roads of the tiny capital, Male City


2 thoughts on “Maldives inside from an outsider

    • I never heard anyone use that term “moped” earlier in the Maldives. There isn’t too much variety in terms of vehicles either. Most people ride motorbikes – the kind pictured above. I’m learning that the models we have in maldives fall more into the category of mopeds than they do into the category of motorbikes.

leave a thread to follow :) merci

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