Two Thousand Isles © 2021 Design by Naj

Alif Alif Ali

A strange light regularly appears just off the Maldives' island of Rasdhoo in Alif Alif atoll
Photography: Naj
Words by Daniel Bosley; Pictures by Aishath Naj

Women taking a stroll around the cool evening streets of Alif Alif Rasdhoo see it. Friends talking on the beach see it. Fishermen plying the depths of Ali Huras Kandu have seen it too.

(Heck, even we saw it!!)

The light. Rising and falling in the darkness over the channel east of the island; over the 30 miles of clear Indian Ocean before North Male atoll.

For decades islanders have seen this light, apparently naming the channel – which literally translates as ‘the channel that light crosses’ – after it. Fishermen have reported shining torches on it and experiencing a rising heat as the light appeared to draw nearer.

None are disturbed. They don’t bother the light, and the light doesn’t bother them. It’s a part of life in the island; a feature of the landscape surrounding the atolls at night – unworldly and unwieldy. Anyway, they all know what it is.

Supernatural spectres are said to have played a prominent role in Maldivian history, often bringing death and disease as well as playing a role in the nation’s conversion to Islam. Before traveller’s brought home tales of sun and spas, the Maldives was known abroad for sorcery and spirits.

Strange phenomena often sited off Alif Alif Rasdhoo in Maldives
Photography: Naj

Descriptions and characteristics of local spirits and ghosts vary from island to island, though Clarence Maloney’s study of the subject would suggest Rasdhoo has itself a neighbourhood furetha, or even a rannamari – which was previously blamed for outbreaks of pestilence in the islands.

No further explanation is needed on Rasdhoo, and none sought. Curious lights have been reported by all kinds of visitors over the years, most often atop the huge volumes of tropical waters that slide indifferently past the coral country.

Reports of abnormal cloud formation in the same area have been accompanied by sudden changes in temperature, though a comprehensive study of atmospheric phenomena in this idiosyncratic island nation has yet to be carried out. For now, it’s a jinn.

Natural, supernatural or naturally supernatural? The difference between the former is surely just our ability to explain. Neither science nor superstition will snuff out the light that dances off the shoulder of Rasdhoo.

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