Way before the Maldives and the world became sickly addicted to the cheap polymers of plastic, we used raw materials that were readily available to us in our region. While houses were built using stones in Europe, structures were built using Clay in the middle east. It was not until global trade peacefully, curried mankind with different raw materials, cultures and technology. As for the Maldives, invisibly located on the Indian Ocean meant not many varieties passed through the trade route, resulting in cultural creativity.
What Maldivians had was either very scarce or too common, but never a variety. Indeed, the coconut palms were considered “blessings” in the island populations, considering all the products they created from the coconut palm.
To begin with, the coconut palm fronds were rather broad and wider than other palms. Maldivians used these palm fronds to build shelters for themselves. Dried palm fronds that fall off are re-used to created thatch sheets that are used for roofing and to build walls. The thatch is precisely knitted along wooden frame-work (made from branches of other trees) by using coir ropes; another product from the Coconut palm itself. Coir ropes are still surviving in the market and are made by a handy process, generally by women. These strong ropes used across almost all through every-day lives of Maldivians are made using the husk of the coconut.
The coconut palm fronds are also used for creative artistry in the Maldives. The iconic “bashi” is a woven cubical ball made using the palm fronds, similar to boats and many childhood toys during the vintage era. The long dried leaves were used to make pottery, by weaving them and attaching them to dried straws also from the palm fronds. “Baipolhi” & “Goshi” are two of many things made for kitchen use. The stem of the palm leaf can be dried to make very strong straws, which are bundled up and tied together to make the “Iloshifathi”. It is used as a broom to sweep from the very ancient days until today, especially to sweet the sandy streets of islands.
No wonder the Coconut Palm is considered as the national tree and is also called “Dhivehi Ruh” (Dhivehi Palm) in the Maldives. It is indeed utilized at its best by its rightful people, and have shown the world what creativity is capable of when it comes to adaptation and survival. The list goes on from a variety of coconut-based foods, drinks, home-ware and hardware, which makes these palms worthy of the title.