The capital of the Maldives sits on a 1-sq-mi/2-sq-km island—the whole place can be seen on foot in about an hour. Home to about one-third of the country's population, it's packed to the gills with buildings and people—in fact, it's so crowded that neighboring islands have been developed to take on the overflow. Several land reclamation projects were needed just to get Male' to its current size.

Most of the older buildings have been demolished to make way for tall, modern ones. And unfortunately, although the place is tiny, everyone seems to own a car or motorbike, and traffic can be unpleasant.

Male' has no natural beaches, being surrounded by seawalls on all sides. However, a landscaped artificial beach and adjoining breakwater were built around the harbor on the southwest side of the island, which is popular for jogging and strolling.

The population of the Maldives is officially 100% Sunni Muslim by law, and there are more than a dozen mosques in Male'. The modern Grand Friday Mosque dominates the city's skyline, but the mosque known as Hukuru Miski, or Old Friday Mosque, is the city's oldest and most distinctive. The surrounding courtyard contains a cemetery full of elaborately carved coral headstones. Many Maldivian figures, including Abu Al Barakat, the man who brought Islam to the Maldives in the 12th century, are entombed in the vicinity.

There are some interesting dive sites near Male', although the nearby waters are sometimes littered with trash that gets swept from "trash island" or thrown overboard. Of particular interest is the wreck of the Maldives Victory, a cargo ship that hit a reef and sank in 1981—it's now covered with coral and lots of fish. Some of the resorts in the area also have good house reefs in which nonguests are also allowed to dive, providing they don't attempt to go ashore. Dive centers in Male' can arrange excursions by boat.

Male' is surrounded by North Male' Atoll and South Male' Atoll, which were the first places in the country to be developed for tourism. It's also the home of the first island to be developed for guesthouse tourism, in 2010.

Maafushi contains more than 50 guesthouses and associated facilities for tourists including a private beach, and has an atmosphere unlike any other island in the Maldives. North Male' Atoll has some of the best surfing in the Maldives, as well as some shipwrecks that make fascinating dive sites. Banana Reef, a protected marine area, is probably the country's best-known dive site. The Helengeli and Eriyadu Resorts are among the most popular in the area with divers. South Male' Atoll also has a number of good dive sites, many of which include small caves with hard and soft corals and occasional nurse sharks. Some of the most popular dive sites include Guraidhoo Corner and Vadoo Caves.

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