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Monumental neglect amid calls to preserve historic mosque"Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy"

Fathmath Shaahunaz
20 June 2018, MVT 09:47
Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy, when it was located in the Southeast corner of Sultan Park.
Fathmath Shaahunaz
20 June 2018, MVT 09:47

It has come to light that the government's plan to shift the ancient mosque of "Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy" from capital Male to Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaal Atoll, has made little progress two years on.

A heritage site with a history of over 200 years, Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy was located in a corner of the demolished grounds of a 16th century Royal Palace. The grounds had been developed into the historic "Sultan Park" in 1968 after the Maldives ended its sultanate; it was revamped and rebranded as "Rasrani Bageecha" in August 2017.

Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy was dismantled a year prior to Rasrani Bageecha's opening, with the government planning to develop Maldives' first ever Winter-themed park in the mosque's site.

The decision to take the mosque apart was harshly slated by the public, and a member of Male City Council had gone as far as to file a lawsuit, claiming the development violated international pacts to preserve heritage sites. Despite the efforts, the judiciary did not issue any orders against the government, and the promised Winter Park was completed and unveiled last Saturday.

However, along with the Winter Park came the previously asked questions regarding the location and status of Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy's disassembled pieces and fate.

The disassembled pieces of Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy

Initially the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, which is tasked with shifting Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy, had considered the reclaimed suburb of Hulhumale, or Farukolhufushi area where a heritage island was planned for development, as possible new homes for the mosque. Ultimately, the government settled on the premises of Thinadhoo's demolished Friday Mosque.

Yet, two years later, the disassembled pieces of Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy remain under the care of the Department of Heritage in Male City.

Local newspaper Mihaaru reported an anonymous source, who had worked on disassembling Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy, as saying that nothing has been done yet to install the mosque in Thinadhoo.

"There were a few meetings [between top officials of the housing ministry and Department of Heritage] two months ago, but nothing is underway."

Meanwhile, the government of the Maldives has assured that the mosque remained safe and protected. Housing Minister Dr. Mohamed Muizzu addressed the subject at the opening of the Winter Park, stating that Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy had not been "abolished".

"What with a park being developed in this corner, the presence of a mosque - it would suit neither the mosque nor the park," he had said of Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy, which had been reassembled in various locations thrice in the past.

An old photograph of Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy.

Weighing in, the Department of Heritage merely stated that its mandate was to provide technical counsel, and to ensure the preservation of the mosque's disassembled pieces.

A stunning structure made from hirigaa (coral stone) and kalhu vakaru (ebony tree), the Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy was constructed in the 18th century by Sultan Hassan Noorudheen I. It was first located near the National Stadium, until it was auctioned off to a resort owner during the regime of Maldives' second president, Ibrahim Nasir. The auction's winner had had the mosque shifted safely to his resort.

Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy was returned to the government after former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom came to power, who gave it its home inside Sultan Park.

For now, it remains to be seen how long it would take for Kalhu Vakaru Miskiyy to see the light of day again, while historians and the common folk alike await its reemergence.

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