“As-Salamu Alaykum”, he said and smiled..
“Wa alaykum salam”, I smiled back..
“Are you sikh?” he asked, and I said I’m not..
“But you’re Indian, right?”
He seemed to be a bit confused and was even more surprised when I said that neither I am Indian..
“Then where are you from?”
“I’m from Armenia”, said I, but seeing how lost he was in attempts to remember if he knew such country or not, I had to add: “It’s near Russia”.. A big smile brightened his face..
“Are you Muslim?”
“Are you Christian?”
“No? So you’re Hindu?”
“I’m all of them”, said I.. He ran his fingers through his beard, and said calmly, “Then welcome to Masjid Jamek”..
Jamek Mosque used to be the main mosque of Kuala Lumpur until Masjid Negara (National Mosque) acquired its position in 1965.. The construction of the mosque was completed in 1907, but only two years later, on 23 December 1909, Sultan Alauddin Sulaiman Shah, the Sultan of Selangor, officially opened it.. The mosque was constructed on the first Malay Burial Ground in KL, on the spot where Kuala Lumpur started.. During the construction of the mosque, the cemetery has been moved to the Gombak Muslim cemetery..
Masjid Jamek is the right place for those who want to escape from the craziness of KL.. Though many tourists visit the mosque, yet its calm and serene atmosphere embraces you from the very moment you enter the gates.. Here and there devotees resting, some doing the rituals and prayers, or talking with their friends, others walking in the shade of coconut palms..
With its red-brick and marble structure Masjid Jamek is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture.. Three domes cover the prayer hall, of which the central dome is 21.3 meters high.. It collapsed in the 1990s and was rebuilt later.. Two 26.8 meters high red and white stripped minarets are at the corners.. They are identical in design and are topped with umbrella-shaped cupolas.. The mosque was designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, British engineer who worked upon the famous Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Kuala Lumpur Railway Station too..
During my stay in KL I visited the mosque 4 or 5 times, alone and with new friends.. And every time the same old man with the same long white beard would greet me, sitting near the entrance gates.. And he would always smile to me, saying, “And how are you today?”.. Some other time he would introduce me to people who served in the mosque and they would present me booklets related to different topics in Islam, such as family affairs, behavior of a devotee, etc.. And once he asked me if I want to accept Islam and if that’s the reason why I often visit the Jamek Mosque.. “No”, said I. “It’s just that I love this place, so beautiful and peaceful”..
Located at the convergence of Klang and Gombak Rivers, Masjid Jamek is acclaimed to be the oldest mosque of Kuala Lumpur.. And of course I wouldn’t forgive myself for missing it.. Not because it’s a famous touristic spot, but because I prefer to learn the history of places through their churches and temples, which play an important role in the life of any community.. From the hostel in KL’s China Town, where I was staying I decided to take a long walk to the mosque under the burning Malay sun! And as I suffer from “topographical cretinism” (as the Russians say) in big cities, I got lost, even though I had a map with me.. Luckily, with the help of the locals I made my way to the mosque, where an old man with a long white beard greeted me..