MALE, August. 31 (Xinhua): The Mayor of the Maldives’ capital city Male Mohamed Muizzu has thanked China on the third anniversary of the opening of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge. In a video message published on his official Twitter account on Monday, Muizzu said “This bridge has been the most important transformational development that the Maldives has seen for a very long time.” Muizzu said that the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge has changed the social and economic life of Maldivians. He added that the bridge has helped the development of Male and called it “a true symbol of China-Maldives everlasting friendship.” Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Wang Lixin said on social media that the bridge was born out of the great ambition and efforts of Maldives and China. She said that the bridge has helped connect three different islands, thereby facilitating travel and leisure for local people. “Look forward to more contributions of the bridge to the social and economic development of the Maldives and even closer ties between our two peoples,” Wang said. The 2,000-meter-long China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is Maldives’ first cross-sea bridge and connects the islands of Male, Hulhule and Hulhumale. The bridge was officially opened on Aug. 30, 2018 and is a landmark project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Weddings When the 2-km Friendship Bridge was completed five weddings were held on the bridge adding a colorful dimension to the bridge. Under the blue sky and white clouds, the friendship bridge looked majestic and colorful with Chinese and Maldivian flags fluttering in the light breeze, as tender music gave the atmosphere a hint of romance. Indeed, romance was in the offing. The newly-inaugurated bridge was picked as the wedding venue for five couples, who tied the knot in full scale wedding ceremonies. The shy but smiling couples walked slowly across the bridge to accept the blessings of friends and family as scores of cell phone cameras clicked and videographers took shots from various angles. The ceremonies were held in different parts on the bridge with each wedding party allotted an exclusive place complete with all facilities including a dining area to have the wedding feast. Ceremonies over, the couple and guests were served a sumptuous meal on tables laid out on the bridge. One of the grooms told Xinhua that he was very “honored” to be selected to be wed on the “grand China-Maldives Friendship Bridge.” “Marriage is a major event in life. The bridge will bring a new life to Maldivians. I hope the bridge will bring us good luck,” he said. According to local media reports, when the Maldivian Ministry of Housing and Construction released news about the “Bridge Wedding” in early August, it received overwhelming responses from Maldivian society. It is said that more than 250 couples had applied for registration, from which the ministry selected five couples. Interestingly, it is reported that all couples were required to be unmarried earlier. One of the couples appeared to have sensed the logic in the insistence on having only first timers going through the ceremony on the bridge. “The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is the first bridge in the history of the Maldives. This is the first time the Maldives has held a wedding on the bridge. We are the first to marry. So choosing to hold a wedding on the bridge is very meaningful for us,” the groom said. Boosts Businesses On Sept. 3, 2019, the first anniversary of the bridge, Xinhua, Xinhua reporters Tang Lu and Jamila Najmuddin reported that the 2 km bridge linking Male with Hulhule island, where the island nation’s only international airport is located, had boosted businesses. The bridge, an iconic project of the Maldives and China in co-building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, made it possible for locals and tourists travel between the two islands within five minutes. On the first anniversary of the bridge’s inauguration, the Maldivians sang and danced on the bridge as it opened a new chapter for the Maldives. For years, Maldivians had relied on ferries as their means of transport between the atolls in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese-built bridge had not only brought convenience to the life of the Maldivians, but also offered new business opportunities and new jobs to many residents living in Hulhumale, a reclaimed island developed for housing complex northeast of Hulhule and Male. A Maldivian man, who lives in Hulhumale but works in Male, told Xinhua that it seemed like Male, Hulhule and Hulhumale had been linked by the bridge as a city. The opening of the bridge had also increased economic vitality as the auto repair industry was prospering in Hulhumale. In front of a blue-and-red building parked a dozen of vehicles waiting to be repaired. Auto repair shop owner Hassan Hakeem said that due to traffic restrictions, the car repair industry had not developed in the Maldives. “We firmly believe the opening of the bridge will bring us more business,” Hakeem said. “In the past, all of our auto repair shops in the Maldives imported a total of 300 or 400 tires every three months, but now Hulhumale alone needs to import more than 1,400 tires a month.” There were many famous cafes and restaurants in Hulhumale. Due to inconvenient traffic in the past, only the weekends or major holidays saw some guests coming from Male. After the bridge was opened to traffic, the cross-island takeaway service had become a standard service for many food and beverage outlets. Jelly Pizza had several chain stores in Male, and its cross-island takeaway business store was located in a secluded alley, with couriers and four or five delivery motorcycles on standby. Courier employee Jahangir just got a single business to send the pizza to a customer who lives in Hulhumale within 30 minutes. “I have to travel back and forth several times a day on the bridge because there are at least three or four trips to Hulhumale every day,” he said. Maisha, who was in charge of finance in the Pizza store, said, “Our customers mainly live in Male. Now there is a bridge. Customers who live in Hulhumale also place their orders now. We are preparing to open a branch in Hulhumale.” The bridge has also generated new job opportunities to the Maldivians. There were no traffic lights and few traffic police in Male. At present, traffic lights have been installed at both ends of the bridge with bridge traffic police. Female traffic police officer Aleena had been working on the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge for eight months. She said, “When I first started on the bridge, I felt that many young people didn’t pay much attention to traffic lights. Now they are very disciplined.” Yoosuf Rafeeu, who was a taxi driver, became a double-decker bus driver after the Maldivian government opened the Greater Male Bus Terminal (GMBT) last year. “There are 23 buses in the GMBT, eight of which are double-decker buses. I am proud to be a rare double-decker bus driver in the Maldives,” he said. Bridge engineer Mohamed Shafeeu studied civil engineering in Malaysia and worked in the ports and terminals of the Maldives. In 2017, he joined the government department and was responsible for the quality management of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge. “Compared with the port and dock projects, the construction of this bridge is more difficult. The engineers in China are very dedicated, and their hard work allows us to enjoy a happy cross-island life,” he said. According to local media reports, when the Maldivian Ministry of Housing and Construction released news about the “Bridge Wedding” in early August, it received overwhelming responses from Maldivian society. It is said that more than 250 couples had applied for registration, from which the ministry selected five couples. Interestingly, it is reported that all couples were required to be unmarried earlier. One of the couples appeared to have sensed the logic in the insistence on having only first timers going through the ceremony on the bridge. “The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is the first bridge in the history of the Maldives. This is the first time the Maldives has held a wedding on the bridge. We are the first to marry. So choosing to hold a wedding on the bridge is very meaningful for us,” the groom said. Connecting capital Male and neighboring Hulhule island where the Maldives’ main international airport is located, the bridge makes it possible for locals and tourists to transfer between the two islands within five minutes. END