To the west of the Indian subcontinent lies Malé, the capital of the Maldives. The Maldives have a reputation as an unspoiled tropical paradise, but this one island is no one’s idea of paradise. More like the set of Waterworld, Malé is one of the most densely populated islands on the planet. But unlike the others, Malé is located hundreds of miles from any continental landmass. 105,000 people, nearly a third of the country’s population, are crammed into an area a little over two square miles with a maximum elevation of only 8 feet above sea level.
The city was formerly a walled city surrounded by forts and containing a Royal Palace, but the old city, except for a 17th-century mosque, was entirely demolished following the abolition of the monarchy in the late 1960s. Malé has since expanded through land-filling operations and is today a dense city of brightly colored high-rises and narrow streets stuck in the middle of the Indian Ocean.