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  • Thursday, August 30, 2012

    Celebrating Festivals in Malaysia

    The difference between somewhere like Malaysia and Gulf Arabia is that all faiths are integrated and celebrated. It’s a refreshing difference and at almost any time of year, some part of Malaysia is busy throwing a party. While the majority of Malaysia’s people are Muslim, the presence of many other cultures in the country provides other opportunities for celebration, making Malaysia party time! 
    Malaysia’s cultures encourage everyone to participate; open house parties during Eid ul-Fitr typically include non-Muslim friends, and even Malay Muslims enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations. If you do end up visiting, these are the ones worth visiting for:

    Thaipusam (between January to February) is best observed from a distance, scenic as it is. The festival is celebrated by Malaysian Hindus, some of whom sacrifice to the deity Murugan by piercing their bodies with skewers attached to colourful frames called Kavadi. Kavadi carriers march to Batu Caves in Selangor; the whole procession of carriers walk up 272 steps into the entrance of the cave and deposit their kavadi at the feet of a statue of Murugan. 

    Thaipusam is a major Hindu festival that runs from January to February. Pic: AP

    Hari Raya Puasa is the local name for Eid ul-Fitr, and is the occasion for feasting everywhere in the country. Most Malays in the city go “balik kampung”, or return to the villages where they were born, wearing the finest clothes they can muster. 

    The Colours of Malaysia celebration in May transforms Kuala Lumpur into a showcase of the best and brightest of Malaysia’s cultures and traditions.
    In East Malaysia, you can visit tribal feasts like the Kaamatan Festival in Sabah, celebrated every May by the Kadazan/Dusun people in gratitude for a successful harvest; or the Gawai Festival in Sarawak, celebrated between May and June by the state’s Iban and Bidayuh people.  

    Malaysia’s large Chinese population invites everyone to join in their unique feasts, like the Chinese New Year occurring between February and March, and the Mooncake Festival in September. The former is a multi-day celebration that brings out bazaars and food stalls selling traditional Chinese goods and foods; the best Chinese New Year celebration can be found in Penang. The Mooncake Festival has as its centerpiece the savory Chinese mooncake, a rich, round pastry filled with sweet red bean paste, lotus nut paste, and salted egg yolk.

    The Mooncake Festival has as its centerpiece the savory Chinese mooncake, a rich, round pastry filled with sweet red bean paste, lotus nut paste, and salted egg yolk. Pic: AP.

    Finally, National Day on August 31 celebrates Malaysia’s independence from British rule, with the night before National Day (Merdeka Eve) lighting up with fireworks and performances by local artists.  A parade along Kuala Lumpur’s streets winds up at Merdeka Square, where the country’s independence is reaffirmed.

    If you want to find out more, check out the Tourism Malaysia Website . You can also view this blog post in Arabic

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    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Mosques in KL

    In the UAE, we are blessed with some great mosques and some. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is one of the most astonishing pieces of modern architecture. And along with the Dubai Mosque, you can really get to experience and understand Muslim culture. In our trip to Malaysia, we experiences a similar kind of openness. Since Malaysia is also an Islamic country, you can continue your prayer and religious habits when you visit even if you are on holiday. In fact the unique mosques of Kuala Lumpur have made them tourist attractions in their own right. And so if you are not Muslim or not practising, KL has some great mosques. These are our favourites:

    Masjid Jamek, Masjid Jamek LRT station
    The Masjid Jamek is one of the most stunning of KL's mosques with Moorish architecture similar to designs you would see in North India. There are onion shaped domes, spires and multiple minarets. There are also palm trees on site and it is surprisingly peaceful despite its central city location.

    Mosque Jamek, Kuala Lumpur. Pic: Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams, Wikimedia Commons.

    The Masjid Jamek was the first mosque built in Kuala Lumpur and is historically important due to its location at the confluence of the two rivers after which the capital is named. It first opened in 1909.
    Locals call it the "Friday Mosque" because it’s very busy for Friday prayers. If you haven't come for prayers you can visit Mon-Thurs, Sat and Sun 0830-1230 and 1430-1600, Fri 0830-1100 and 1430-1600. Admission is free.

    National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara), near Central Market
    The Central Market is a great place to visit. And this this is where the National Mosque is located - across from the old railway station. It can fit in 15,000 people and lies amongst 13 acres of gardens with reflecting pools and gardens. It also features a 73 metre high minaret and a star shaped dome with 18 points including the five central Pillars of Islam and the 13 states of Malaysia.

    The mosque only dates back to 1965 so it has a more modern style with marble, concrete, straight angled pillars. It was also built on the site of a church.
    Mosque of Malaysia. Pic: Graeme Maclean, Wikimedia Commons

    Tourists can visit the mosque for free during non-prayer times. As you are aware, you need to dress appropriately. However if you don't you will be asked to don a bright purple robe. It is open daily from 0900-1800. Again, admission is free.

    Masjid As Syakirin (As Syakirin Mosque), KLCC Park
    This mosque is a great one to visit if you're doing any shopping near the Suria KLCC shopping centre or the Petronas Twin Towers. The mosque was built in 1998 and features architecture reminiscent of East Asia with Uzbek carvings and calligraphy.

    Its location near the Petronas Towers means it gets a lot of visitors and has earned it the nickname "Jewel in the Park". It can fit in 12,000 people.

    It's remarkable how similar the UAE is to Malaysia, especially the main cities. But it's all to do with the culture that permeates through the cities. 

    If you want to find out more, check out the Tourism Malaysia Website . You can also view this blog post in Arabic

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    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    The Islamic fashion capital of the world

    Ramadan offers a great opportunity to get away. And many from the Gulf like to visit East, especially places like Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur. One thing that KL is doing differently is fashion. Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi have tried to put their stamp on fashion, but KL is putting its own stamp on it. Discover the beauty of modesty!

    If fashion is your thing, then November is the next time to visit as Kuala Lumpur has set itself up as the Islamic fashion capital of the world with its annual flagship event, Islamic Fashion Week, now traipsing the world everywhere from Abu Dhabi to Astana, Bandung, Dubai, Singapore, New York, London and Monte Carlo,

    Portrait of a girl. Pic: D Sharon Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons.

    While it’s probably no surprise that Malaysia, a more moderate Islamic nation where women can show their face, started the event their key slogan is in keeping with Islamic beliefs: "Discover the Beauty of Modesty".

    The event was actually started in response to the events of 911 in an effort to showcase to the world that true nature and beauty of Islam and that there is beauty in a woman’s modest attire.

    They also want to inspire individual fashion and entice all people, be they Muslim or not, by the creativity, freshness and artistic styles there are in Islamic fashion.

    Women's accessories for sale. Pic: OrrlingWikimedia Commons.

    And it would seem they’ve succeeded as the 2006 event has since proceeded to parts of the world where more liberal dressing is usually the order of the day. This year alone the event will go from London to Manila, Bali and Cannes.

    Not only are exhibitions held around the world but the event also incorporates designers from across the Islamic world. To date the IFF has used 250 designers from diverse places like India, Palestine, Singapore, Morocco, Malaysia and Cameroon.

    Famous names you might recognise include Dato’ Tom Abang Saufi (Kuala Lumpur), Milo (Bali), Etro (Italy), Biyan (Jakarta) and Zang Toi (New York). If you’re keen to brush up on the most up to date fashions and movements in the Islamic world the key events will take place in Kuala Lumpur this November at the JW Marriott with the theme “Can you feel the love (Africa)”.

    We love Malaysia. If you want to find out more, check out the Tourism Malaysia Website . You can also view this blog post in Arabic

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