Invoking the patriotic feelings of the people, the National Museum of Maldives is the must see attraction in the Maldives. The building values a diverse collection of artefacts ranging from relics from the foregone pre-Islamic era, to fragments of royal antiques such as thrones, royal sunshades and furniture, costumes and shoes, coins, ornaments, arms and armours.
What used to be once known as the Sultan’s Palace, the compound dates back to the 17th century, is now the permanent home to the national treasures throughout the ages of the Maldives.
Separated by the Sultan’s Park, formerly the palace grounds, the museum complex consists of two large buildings: the actual museum and a National Art Gallery.
The third and incumbent President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, opened the doors of the new National Museum of the Maldives on the Independence Day of the Maldives, 26 July 2010. Worth over US$7.8 million, the monument was built and financed by the Chinese government as a gesture of the Chinese-Maldives prospering relationship.
Today, the largest group of tourists to come to the Maldives are the Chinese, emerging with a 13 per cent share. China also holds the record for the highest number of tourists arriving to the Maldives during a period of one month, with 13,345 visitors in February, beating the European markets.
With the Sultan’s Park aimed at being part of the bigger picture of the museum, the grounds are currently being planned for conversion into the Maldives’ first unique botanical garden by the Eden project.
A big emphasis is to be placed on the plants of the Maldives. “We want to produce something distinct for the Maldives – something beyond being a nice garden with pleasant shade. Maldivians will find plants that have played a key role in their cultural identity. It will become a place for children to understand what it means to be a Maldivian. It can’t be boring, it has to be entertaining, and something they won’t be able to find anywhere else”, states the organisation’s English curator, Ian Martin.
The first National Museum of the Maldives opened it doors on 11 November 1952 and was established by the first President of the Maldives, Mohamed Amin Didi.
Notable exhibits currently on display are, six-faced coral-stone stele, circa 9th century CE (c. 3rd century AH); Makara tantric symbol, coral stone box, c. 8th century CE; Large lacquer ware ‘malafaiy’, used as a food container for feasts; Dark coloured demon, coral stone, c. 9th century CE; and a Head sculpture, c. 9th-10th centuries CE.
The original three-storey museum is the only remaining structure of the palace that was demolished in 1968. The interior of the building was preserved from the days of the Sultanate, which includes the handwritten Quran engravings on the walls. It still stands to this day.
Virtual Tour of the Old Museum
9am – 5pm, Sunday-Thursday (closed Friday and Saturday)
Admission tickets available at Museum entrance 9am – 4pm
Tourists – Rf50 adults, Rf15 children
Maldivians – Rf20 adults, Rf5 children