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A group of Maldive women go shopping in the bazaar - 1959
by Abdul Hakeem Hussein Manik
originally published in Viyafaari Miadhu (Business Today)
3 February 1959
from the book 'Iyye' (Yesterday) published and banned in Maldives in 1997
translated by Fareesha Abdulla

Male' women at a 1950s costume party. Sosunge Tuttu Goma, a leading political figure during the rule of Mohamed Ameen, is on the far left. She is wearing the 'fothiboavalhu libaas', a modified version of the older 'dhivehi libaas', without an embroidered neck piece and cuffs. The traditional embroidered neck piece and cuffs were substituted with plain cloth during the 1940's wartime austerity (The 'burugaa' or veil was promoted around the same time by conservative males, but did not catch on. Only two women in the photo are slightly veiled.) The woman second from the right is wearing a light 'dhe nambaru hedhun', or 'number 2 dress'. The 'eh nambaru hedhun' or 'number 1 dress and 'dhe nambaru hedhun' were also known as 'faaskuri hedhun' or 'karaa hedhun'. Both styles were designed by Mohamed Ameen and based on the clothes worn by English nannies in Sri Lanka. Covered shoes were permitted wear only for Maldive aristocrats, until the mid-twentieth century.
Source: Majid Abdul-Wahhab

On 31 January 1959 at about 2 p.m., a group of women friends, including Sakeena and Shareefa Moosa, went to the Male' bazaar and began shopping.

Saeed Ali, the manager of I.H.D., and Nagariya Hassan Kaleyfaan treated the women in a very cultured manner. K.I.D.'s deputy assistant manager Ahmed Ali Didi was also very courteous and respectful towards them. This is what ought to happen. Borah traders paid their respects properly, according to the international conventions of the time.

There was also a regrettable display by coarse men who were shocked at the sight of the women and went running after them. It is not right to follow people and stare at them with a shocked expression, regardless of whether the people are Maldivians or foreigners one has never seen before. Doing such things gives the country a bad name, and pains the heart of all those who hold their nation dear. It is terribly bad behaviour.

As Maldives develops, people will be less shocked by the signs of that development. Being alarmed by these changes is an indication of uncivilised manners. It is most regrettable.

The group of women who went shopping had permission from the Male' Municipality office through a letter (reference no. 6/59.17) dated 28 January 1959. The letter reads:
'It is not prohibited by the government for women, in the same way as men, to visit, for shopping and other purposes, the foreign and locally owned stores in the bazaar.'

What a joyous, civilised and liberating statement this is. It contains the spirit of freedom. Let there be a tolerant Dhivehi state, thankyou.

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