The next morning I awoke to a rainstorm, and I saw for real what happens when water has nowhere to drain. Most of the roads were flooded and in places the water was rising across the small pavements and were lapping at the steps of the buildings. As I cautiously negotiated my way to work, I realised the district around my office had been worst affected. Here it was not just the rainwater collecting, it was coming up from under the ground and water from other areas was streaming in here. This was the lowest point of a very low island. One of my colleagues at the Department of Environment explained to me that where we were sitting was on one of the earlier reclamation sites in Male, and the sediment used to fill up was not only lower than the coral island, but also more porous and the water table easily rose above the surface and flooded the area.
Every pedestrian trod carefully that day and avoided the wake of fast moving vehicles, but it was tough in some areas. The heat of the day did let it dry out quite quickly, though, and that evening I was able to go walkabout in the streets of Male once more. This time I headed north from the hotel to the great long central thoroughfare which I had driven along on the first morning, the Majheedee Magu Road. Much of the central area of this road was the larger stores and small shopping malls which at 5pm were crazy busy. Above the long line of vehicles inching each way along this thoroughfare, I could see a small round circle of sky at the far end. If I looked the other way, I could see another circle of light. From this one point I could see both ends of Male Island, and I was walking along the longest axis.
As I got to the eastern end the traffic and the hecticness of the shopping district calmed and I found myself in a small park. At the end of the road I turned northwards and passed the ferry dock we had used earlier in the week to head to Thulusdhoo. It was now busy with commuters – this dock tended to serve people to the nearby islands to the north; both the airport and a couple of residential islands. Many of these islands had been recently expanded with artificial reclamation schemes. Hopefully they would not continue to be infilled with high rise apartment blocks like Male, but the pressure on the biggest city on the country meant that to suburbanise the population would take more reclamation and island space than was available in the environs. The population of Male is over 100,000 in an area of a little over 5km2 puts it in the top 50 of densely populated cities.