Think umbrellas and monsoon rains
While Masjid Jamek is a far more interesting mosque and certainly more pleasing to the eye, Kuala Lumpur’s National Mosque (Masjid Negara), is worth a look if you’re planning on a visit to the nearby Islamic Arts Museum.
Built on the site of a church which had stood there since the early 20th century, the mosque was opened in 1965, and has a capacity of 15,000 worshippers—it is the largest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. A renovation in 1987 added a layer of bling to the interior appearance, or in words of our guide made it “more exciting”.
The design is quite curious, with the central roof intended to bring an open umbrella to mind while the minaret is said to be a closed umbrella—umbrellas apparently used as a symbol of the tropics. The roof also has a folded concrete appearance from a distance, it certainly isn’t the most attractive part of the mosque, but this design did allow for a larger area within for prayers, without the need for support pillars.
Sticking with the tropical theme, the many pillars spread across the open galleries surrounding the central prayer chamber are said to have been modelled on coconut palm plantations (we guess oil palm plantations would not have allowed for the high roof which keeps the worshippers cool), and the water features around the chamber signify, you guessed it, the many bodies of water in monsoonal Malaysia.
Only Muslims are allowed into the actual prayer chamber, but tourists are otherwise welcome and there are quite cheery volunteer guides on site to tell you some of the history of the site and answer any questions about Islam you may have.
Behind the main prayer hall you’ll find the Makam Pahlawan (Heroes’ Tomb) where you can see the tombs of some Malaysian Muslim leaders, all sheltered under a similar, though far smaller, trapezoidal roof.
While the mosque and the Heroes’ Mausoleum are arguably not worth traipsing across the city for, they are a logical addition if you’re already visiting the Islamic Arts Museum. Admission is free, though donations are always welcome.
Respectful attire is required and purple robes are available for those who forget to wear a shirt and long pants. There is a shoe rack where you can leave your shoes before climbing the stairs to the upper platform.
The mosque welcomes non-Muslim tourists outside of prayer times, with Friday prayers being especially busy. Muslim visitors can visit at any time. For non-Muslim tourists, the mosque is open Sa-Th 09:00–12:00, 15:00–16:00 and 17:30–18:30. On Fridays, when the prayers are far busier, the mosque is open to non-worshippers 15:00–16:00 and 17:30–18:39 only.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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