National Day, in Maldives, commemorates the day when local resistance drove out the Portuguese occupiers after they had seized and ruled the islands for a span of 15 years.
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The Portuguese had arrived in 1558, killed the local sultan, and taken over. In 1573, however, Muhammad Thakurufaanu and his forces took back Male in a decisive victory that effectively eliminated the Portuguese presence.
Unfortunately for the locals, the colonial era eventually again robbed them of their independence. In time, the Dutch, and later the British, would take control of Maldives. It would not be until July 26th, 1965, that Maldives finally gained its independence from the U.K.
The timing of Maldives National Day is based on the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar. Therefore, the date will change by about 10 days each year. However, National Day falls on the first day of the month of Rabi Al Awwaw, which will likely land it on December 13th in 2015, depending on the moon sightings. The official name of National Day in the local Dhivehi language is “Qaumee Dhuvas”.
National Day is celebrated primarily by means of numerous parades held throughout Maldives, the main one being in the capital city of Male. These are heavily military parades, very ceremonial in nature, and they are often accompanied by political speeches and flag-raising ceremonies. You can also find stage performances, children’s events, and fireworks displays at some events on some years.
Things to do during National Day:
Besides attending the parades, if in Maldives during National Day, some things you may want to do include:
- Enjoy time at any of the 90 or so tourist resorts in the country. The “resort island” of Landaa Giraavaru is one of the more famous, and one of the renown beaches is found on Filitheyo Island along with numerous palms and lagoons. Many resorts will offer luxurious accommodations, native-style furniture and architecture, and a taste of local cuisine at an on-site cafe.
- Scuba dive, snorkel, or boat-tour the colorful coral reefs that abound throughout Maldives. With over 1,000 species of fish, dolphins, whales, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sponges, and more, these reefs are exquisitely beautiful and crawling with a great diversity of aquatic life.
- Go surfing. Thari Village is one of the best surf spots, though there are many other good locations as well. Your average-sized reef breaker will be four or five feet high, but there are eight to 10 foot high waves during “surf monsoon,” which lasts from February through November.
- Cruise on a “liveaboard.” This means to go on sight-seeing boat excursions, and it is an excellent way to explore a nation that consists of small dots of land scattered across a vast expanse of water. You can sail around Male, stop and shop on small, inhabited islands, and even explore some uninhabited islands.
- Take a fishing trip. You can learn local fishing methods, go for big game fish, fish the reefs, fish at night, or just shore fish near your resort. After a fishing excursion, it is customary here to have a beach barbecue to finish off the evening.