The Palestinian Fisherman of Maafushi, Maldives

10:00:00 AM Jerik De Guzman 0 Comments

Beautiful sunset overlooking the vast Indian Ocean
STORY: I've been soaking myself up in the beautiful waters of Maafushi in the Republic of Maldives. The weather for the first few days of my stay was absolutely fantastic. The sun was beaming over the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, and the best part, visibility was pretty damn good. I've been snorkeling for hours every single day, and i could feel my skin drenched in the salts of paradise, as i try to chase nemo and his friends. 

I've already expressed my intentions to go on an excursion. Shaniz, the manager of White Shell Inn, has been very helpful in making sure i spend my hard earned money well. Sadly, if i wanted to go night fishing, i will have to pay for the rental of the speed boat. You know, Maldives is a honeymoon territory, and people who arrive travel in groups. And i'm the one of the few who chose to visit the island solo. Yet, i couldn't let this trip pass by without me fishing. I've always wanted to fish right in the middle of the Indian ocean. That night, i still had no luck. Everyone in the hotel was going for excursions to five star spa resorts, but no one wanted to try line fishing. 

Palestinians on board the fishing vessel 

Early morning, the next day, i went back to Shaniz with a decision to pursue my love of fishing even if it means i had to pay $100 for my night fishing expedition. I overheard a few gentlemen inquiring about fishing. They left a few minutes after. They were staying at another resort called Arena. I went back to Shaniz, and asked if i could join this group of three so we could split the fare for the speedboat. He called them up immediately to finalize the trip, and luckily, they agreed. Later that afternoon, i was already introducing myself to these chaps from Qatar. 


Fisherman preparing the bait for us

We caught almost three dozen medium sized fish from the three points we parked. We started line fishing at around half past six o'clock, just as the sun is about to set. The group was fine, and the fishermen were very friendly and knowledgeable at what they do. Only missing is a cold beer, if only it was allowed in the local island. We knew that whatever fish we caught would be our dinner for the night, and i would be sharing it with my fishing buddies. 

These men are from Palestine. Two moved to Doha having completed their studies and are now currently working. One is still studying in Dubai. A few weeks ago, i was in Mirissa in Sri Lanka, when the news broke of the fight between Israel and Palestine. I knew i was in for a treat with my fishing buddies.

I intentionally wanted to veer away from the touchy subject because we're all on a holiday. The current situation in Palestine is at its worst in decades. Even if my heart wanted to know the real score, i wanted these folks to enjoy their vacation. Sure, you can read stuff on paper. But it's always a different experience getting the side of the people of the nation.

Half of our bounty: yellow fish, angel fish, snapper and barracuda

I just caught my first fish after 40 minutes. It was pretty bad, i know. The past few weeks, people going on this excursion caught nothing. One of the chaps was pretty lucky, spotting a fish every 10 minutes. The others were so unlucky, they didn't catch anything on our four-hour trip. Nobody wanted to leave as we're all eager to catch as many fish as possible. That was the goal, to begin with. Luckily, the boatman agreed to extend an additional hour without any sort of added payment. We caught so many fish that night, that we could already feed all the guests in the hotel, or even in the whole island.

It was almost 9PM when we decided it's time head back home to Maafushi. Apart from the lights from neighboring resort island miles away, only the stars serve as our guiding light. As expected, we arrived back in Maafushi safe and sound. This has got to be the calmest boat ride I've ever experienced. Fishing in the deepest parts of the Indian ocean is an adventure in itself, and i'm glad i had a chance to experience it. 

Initially, the Palestinians wanted to eat dinner at their resort and just give away all the fish. 

"I caught these fish myself with blood, sweat and tears. I will eat what i caught for sure", i said. We agreed to enjoy our bounty for the night. While nemo and its friends were being grilled at the resort restaurant, we all went back to our rooms to wash up and prepare for dinner. 

The boys pose with the night's harvest

Minutes later, we were already enjoying the fruits of our labor. Although the cool breeze of the night, made our fish less warm, we enjoyed the succulent fish nonetheless. One of the chaps brought his sisha for us to enjoy. 

These chaps are technically kids, almost half of my age, and already traveling by themselves. 

After enjoying our hearty meal, the guys asked me, "What's your religion, Jerik?". 

When you're traveling, chances are, you will encounter people from all walks of life, with different religious beliefs. The night was special. In a strict Muslim country as Maldives, I've had the finest talk about Islam and faith from my new found Muslim friends. We enjoyed chatting about Palestine, Gaza and Hamas. We even discussed about Israel and its unbelievably tough soldiers. The rest of the night was a cultural, religious and political debate of the current situation in the middle east. What i found interesting is that when i told them i want to read about Palestine, they told me not to google it. 

It was one of those instances that i was thankful i was traveling. I've been reading news about the Palestine-Israel war, and by just simply hanging out with the crew, i got the best history lesson anyone could ever ask for. The trip to several Muslim countries has molded me to become a more understanding Christian.

Fishermen guide from Maafushi, Republic of Maldives

REALIZATIONS: I wondered if circumstances would change if we would just stop with all the judgement, and listen to our Muslim brothers are saying instead. They are also people who want to live and love. There would always be differences in thoughts and opinions, and arguments are bound to happen. But if we will just listen and respect, i reckon we will live in a world where peace is at its end.

I told them one thing with pride and delight. I am Christian, you're Muslim. We are brothers. My religion is very simple, my religion is kindess. Regardless of where you are from, we are all neighbors in this world. We need to look after each other.

It was my turn to puff the shisha they brought. We were all listening to Pharell Williams' Happy on their iPhone, and singing at that. What-a-night!

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