The busy produce market (Map pp90-l) gives a real flavour of the Maldives - its people at turns friendly and surly as they pack out all available space selling home-grown and im ported vegetables. Coconuts and bananas are the most plentiful produce, but look inside for the stacks of betel leaf, for wrapping up a 'chew'. This is the heart and soul of the capital and just wandering around, watching the hawkers and the shoppers and seeing the vast array of products on display is fascinating.

Nearby is the fish market (Map p94), which is not to be missed, although the squeamish may well object to the buckets of entrails or the very public gutting of fish going on all around. This is the soul of Male' -and there's little more authentically Mal-divian than watching the day's catch being brought in to the market from the adjacent fishing harbour. Fishing and marketing are men's work here, and Maldivian women don't usually venture into these areas.

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