Male is the Manhattan of the Maldives, a bustling city of mobile phones and traffic jams in a country devoted to helping visitors kick back. The capital is worth a visit even though many tourists skip it, heading straight from the airport on neighbouring Hulhule Island to their luxury resorts and back again. Male is half-pint-sized on an island only 2km long and 1km wide. You can walk around it in less than two hours. But for shoppers, the place can easily command a lazy afternoon's browsing. Boats from the resort islands or water taxis (below right) from the airport pull into the inner harbour on the north side of the island. Expect to be greeted enthusiastically by touts pushing the business cards of the stores they serve, as well as freelance tourist guides who will take you around their hometown for a few dollars. American dollars are widely used. Those looking to get their hands on the local currency, the colourful rufiyaa, will find an HSBC bank with a cash machine towards the east end of Boduthakurufaanu Magu, or Marine Drive, along the waterfront. For traditional crafts such as lacquer boxes and hand-carved pots and cups, check out Heritage (25 Boduthakurufaanu Magu, tel: 960 323 093; www.creativitymal-dives.org ). The store represents the Creative Arts and Crafts Training Centre on nearby Villingili Island, which aims to preserve traditional handicrafts. Handmade cups and vases reflect the considerable workmanship that goes into them and sell for US$15 to US$40. A cluster of souvenir stores line Orchid and Chandanee streets, near the Theemuge, the president's palace. The palace is notable for its guards and watchtowers: President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has ruled since 1978 and is widely unpopular. Male was the scene of short-lived rioting in August last year. After a look at the fortified palace try the STO Trade Centre (Orchid Magu, tel: 960 337 061). On the second floor you'll find Atoll Wear, which stocks hand-painted T-shirts with Maldivian designs (US$10), sarongs (US$5), colourful trouser sets and locally made bracelets. The Lime Shop and Batik Centre (31 Chandanee Magu, tel: 960 326 447) claims to be the biggest souvenir shop in Male. It has a wide selection of bangles, batik fabrics and other tourist staples, for which you should bargain. If you don't think you're getting a good price, head next door to Banana Boat (tel: 960 323 476). Avoid products made from coral, turtle shells, shark parts or seashells, the supply for which causes environmental damage. Exporting them may be illegal. For more unusual souvenirs such as coconut graters and woven grass mats, check out the hardware and general stores along the waterfront near the fish market. You'll also come across stores selling such oddities as huge anchors, but check your luggage allowance before buying. At the seafood market, fishermen stand by their catches of the day, a dazzling array of huge dogtooth tuna, shiny mackerel, hump-headed dorado and silver trevally. Net fishing is illegal in the Maldives, which means fish stocks are generally healthy. Around the corner, the produce market is worth a quick spending spree on fresh fruit (and perhaps vegetables). But if you are in need of a different type of sustenance, kick back in one of Male's many cafes or restaurants. Shell Beans (below; Boduthakurufaanu Magu, tel: 960 333686) is a stylish modern establishment serving a range of imported coffees, local breads and cakes. But bear in mind that, following Islamic principles, no alcohol or pork is sold in Male.