Maldives Promotion House – Isn’t it an ordinary thing in this world to keep on wondering about women; women as a form of creation, women as a subject in history and society, women as sexual beings, or women as opposed to men? Does not each woman wonder why we are now the way we are as women of the Maldives, as women of this world, as humans of a specified gender?
It is my understanding that women’s stories and status in society happen in relation to what the world has seen before. In Maldivians’ case, our attitude towards the female human form and our image of the contemporary Maldivian woman is linked with what women in the history of the islands have felt, weathered, shared, and strived for. It is for this reason that I search for stories about Maldivian women in history. My search has frequently led me to the journals of Francois Pyrard of Laval written in the 1600s and other shorter accounts written on women by travellers such as Ibn Batuta and Al Idrisi. More so to the former due to the exquisite attention to detail in Pyrard’s journals.
Pyrard often wrote in detail about the nature of women around him, the dynamics of the relationships they had with the world around them, and the place of these women in their society. With a sense of admiration, he wrote of the olive complexion of the women he met. If it is in the writer’s nature to admire women in general or if these women with the darkest hair of black are of the admirable kind is a question I ask. Writing about how the women washed their hair and bathed it in sweet scented oils Pyrard said,
‘It is a beauty among women to have the hair very long, thick, and black; they dress and bathe it often… they let it float in the wind until it be perfectly dry, then they apply oils, very odoriferous, in such wise that their heads are always soaked and oily.’
On the standing of women in society, Pyrard wrote about how exceedingly courteous and obliging the men are towards the women. As much as he wrote about the attractiveness of the women, he also had a tendency to explore their ‘amorous’ ways, as he puts it, whenever there is an analysis of the nature of relationships between men and women. It is as if there is a need to continuously find a justification for the nature of the Maldivian women around him. Describing the reason for the women’s temperament he said,
‘… the principal seems to me to be that they are exceedingly lazy, and do nothing but ever lie rocked in daintiness. Next, that they are continuously eating betel, a very heating herb; and in their ordinary fare use so many spices that sometimes I could hardly put the food in my mouth…’
From another perspective, he also wrote much about the strong traits of women and peculiar customs applied on women, once stating that women are better swimmers than men, while defining most Maldivians as half-fish. He noticed how women are never present at feasts prepared for Ramazan, at table sides on mealtimes, at mosques, and never without a veil or a man by their side when they rarely take a walk at night. In a rather revealing account, he described in detail how a group of thirty women had had their hair cut and beaten with whips for a crime referred as puoy thellun, the sentence delivered by a much respected Pandiyaaru (judge) of that period. Interestingly, the text specifies how the men who committed the same kind of ‘sin’ were left unheeded for. Some writers have later acknowledged that the sound ‘p’ in words like pandiyaaru was later swapped for the sound ‘f’, so that it is now used as fandiyaaru, faadhippolhu, and also maybe fuoy or fui.
Throughout his text, Pyrard seemed to regard womenfolk with a higher esteem and seemed to despise some of the characteristics of the men around him. It is as if there exists an inherent need for the writer to side with the women in a society that practices customs that are unfamiliar to him. Why would an onlooker want to side with a specific group unless they are viewed as a more subdued element in the environment? Explaining how the men are of a lesser force and spirit than the women, Pyrard writes,
‘They are industrious in arts and manufactures, and polite of manners: a people superstitious beyond measure, and much devoted to, their religion, yet, in their indulgence of women, lascivious and intemperate.’
Four hundred years on, why does it seem like such a familiar state for Maldivian women? Where in our history did the Maldivian woman choose to be where we are today?
Several historians have confirmed that female rulers have reigned over the islands up until the 16th century. Ibn Batuta who came upon the women of Maldives in the 1300s saw it rather strange to find a female ruler by the name of Khadija who commanded an army of a thousand men and to find women with half of their bodies uncovered. He also writes in his journals,
‘It is easy to get married on these islands on account of the smallness of dowries and the pleasure of their women’s society. When ships arrive, the crew marry many wives, and when they are about to sail they divorce them’.
Why then, until the 16th century? As Pyrard pointed out in the 1600s,
‘A man may have three wives at once, but no more, and these only if he is able to support and maintain them… It is but an ill-considered law for these countries, where three husbands would not suffice for one wife, so lewd are the women.’
A bold statement observed by a foreigner, we may suppose. But it is impossible not to ask about the stories that link these two accounts written by two travellers a couple of centuries apart, and where these stories lead to in relation to life as we know it among Maldivian women now. Men can still be married to three women at the same time in the Maldives. Whether it is now ‘considered ill’ by the Maldivian woman is a question to be asked. The answer to this question may in turn mould the portraits of the Maldivian women to come.
A detailed account of the Maldivian islands and its people in the early 1600s are found in The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, The Maldives, The Moluccas and Brazil, translated in to English from the 3rd French edition of 1619 and edited with notes by Albert Gray. Available at seasiavisions.library.cornell.edu
Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry
In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.
Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.
After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.
Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.
In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.
As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.
Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.
Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.
As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.
Hamzath Ameen: Elevating human resources
In the fast-paced and thriving hospitality industry of the Maldives, where exceptional service and guest satisfaction are paramount, there are individuals who stand out for their dedication, expertise, and leadership qualities. Hamzath Ameen is making his mark as a proficient human resources professional in island resorts of the Maldives. With an impressive career trajectory and a passion for excellence, Hamzath has become a respected figure in the industry.
Hamzath Ameen was born and raised in Addu Atoll, a region known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture. Following his schooling, he pursued his higher education at Cyryx College in Male’, where he successfully completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Management. This academic foundation laid the groundwork for his future career in the dynamic world of hospitality.
Hamzath embarked on his professional journey at Dhonveli Beach Resort, where he assumed the role of Accounts Officer. This initial foray into the hospitality industry allowed him to gain valuable insights into the financial aspects of resort operations and the importance of maintaining accurate records and efficient systems.
Eager to expand his horizons and broaden his skill set, Hamzath sought opportunities at various reputable companies and resorts throughout the Maldives. His determination and exceptional work ethic caught the attention of industry professionals, leading to his appointment as the Human Resources Officer at Furaveri Island Resort. Recognizing his potential, Ameen quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager, and subsequently, Human Resources Manager.
During his tenure at Furaveri Island Resort, Hamzath made significant contributions to the establishment’s human resources department. He spearheaded various initiatives to enhance employee engagement, streamline recruitment processes, and foster a positive work culture. Under his leadership, the resort witnessed an increase in employee satisfaction and a notable reduction in turnover rates, solidifying Hamzath’s reputation as a skilled people manager.
In 2022, Hamzath accepted an exciting new opportunity and joined Rihiveli Maldives Resort as the Human Resources Manager. With his wealth of experience and proven track record, he assumed a pivotal role in overseeing the resort’s human resources functions, including recruitment, training and development, performance management, and employee relations. Hamzath’s strategic approach and ability to build strong relationships with staff and management alike have made him an invaluable asset to the resort.
Hamzath Ameen’s journey from an Accounts Officer to a respected Human Resources Manager exemplifies his commitment to personal growth and professional excellence. Through his hard work, dedication, and leadership abilities, he has successfully carved a niche for himself in the competitive Maldivian hospitality industry. Hamzath’s passion for nurturing talent, fostering positive work environments, and delivering exceptional guest experiences continues to make a lasting impact on the resorts he has served.
Chef Mohamed Niyaz on celebrating authentic Maldivian flavours
Introducing the culinary genius who brings alive Kaagé specialty restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere
Chef Mohamed Niyaz is the Maldivian Chef who has breathed life into VARU By Atmosphere’s signature restaurant – Kaagé. In this interview, he speaks about his love for local cuisine and his inspiration. He also shares words of wisdom for budding chefs in the Maldives.
Where are you from? I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Ha. Dhihdhoo, in the Haa Alif Atoll, Maldives.
When did you first fall in love with cooking? Even when I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom. I was so intrigued by her amazing cooking skills and how she would prepare all sorts of delicious dishes. I would eagerly watch and learn from her every time she cooked. That’s what inspired me to become a chef myself.
What motivates you? Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a deep passion for both art and cooking. My mother, who is incredibly creative, would whip up imaginative meals. I would often tell her that one day, when I grew up, I would become a chef and cook a special meal just for her. I’m proud to say that I’ve fulfilled that dream.
Tell us a little bit about your journey in the hospitality industry. In 2002, I had the chance to embark on my journey in the tourism industry when I began working as a Commis at Hulhule Island Hotel. Over 16 years, I climbed the ranks and eventually held the position of Chef De Partie at the same hotel. Then, in 2019, an exciting opportunity came my way as I joined VARU by Atmosphere as a Sous Chef. Currently, I am honoured to be working as a Maldivian Chef at the renowned Kaagé restaurant, which is the first of its kind in Atmosphere Core.
What are some of your achievements and awards? Throughout my 20-year career, I have had the privilege of receiving nominations and winning various awards in different competitions and ceremonies. The most recent and special achievement was when I was honoured with the CGM Chefs Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2022. The year 2016 proved to be another successful year, I achieved remarkable accomplishments in international competitions. Securing second place in the Team Challenge and first place in the Foreign Team Challenge at the Chinese Foreign Hotel’s cooking competition, CCTV ‘The Greatest Chefs.’ In addition, I have been participating in the Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge from 2012 to 2022 and have received 12 gold, silver, and bronze awards over the years.
Can you describe Kaagé restaurant for us? Kaagé is the signature Maldivian restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere. The restaurant is designed as a traditional Maldivian house adorned by heritage photographs and video storytelling. Guests can relish local flavours presented with a progressive twist. We use traditional home cooking methods to ensure the food is fresh, aromatic, and flavourful.
As a chef, what are your preferred local ingredients? Coconut, pandan leaves, Maldivian chilli, and curry leaves hold a special place in my culinary repertoire.
Which dish would you highly recommend to all guests at Kaage? There are a variety of local dishes on our menu. I would recommend guests try Gulha, a deep-fried pastry ball filled with smoked tuna or vegetables and flavoured with finely chopped onion, grated coconut, and chilli. And Kandu Kukhulu, our renowned Maldivian tuna curry, stands out as the most exceptional and beloved dish. It is one of our signature specialties and the rich flavours are sure to leave a lasting impression on our valued guests.
What are your plans for the future? At present, Maldivian cuisine is exclusively available in restaurants within our nation. My aspiration is to present Maldivian specialty cuisine on a global scale.
What guidance would you offer aspiring Maldivian chefs? To the younger generation, I would like to emphasize that Maldivian Cuisine is truly distinctive, and with unwavering dedication and perseverance, you can achieve remarkable heights. In line with a Maldivian saying, “Fass enburi nubala abadhuves hih varaa eku kuriyah dhaan masahkaeh kuraashey, ehves masahkathaky hadi masahkatheh nooney” (loosely translated as, always strive to move forward with courage, without dwelling on the past, as no task is ever considered insignificant).
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