KL Adventures: Islamic architecture in Putrajaya

Putrajaya on a holiday.

The husband and I are suckers for beautiful architecture – be it modern or more on the classical side. I’ve fallen in love with several European and Asian cities because of their skylines and the feeling I get when I walk around the city, surrounded by stunning buildings. They just add so much character (some even add to the city’s history) to a certain place.

So it’s no wonder that I enjoyed our short afternoon trip to Putrajaya, Malaysia’s seat of government, a couple of weeks back. We went with 3 of Alvin’s colleagues who were nice enough to drive us around.

It’s quite easy to get to Putrajaya from Kuala Lumpur – you can take the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Transit (don’t take the express train as it won’t stop at Putrajaya station and will go straight to the airport!) or you can take a Rapid KL bus marked ‘E1’. It will pick up passengers in the Pasar Seni and KL Sentral train stations. However, once you actually get to Putrajaya, it’s quite hard to navigate without your own car. So some tourists opt to hire a taxi within the city and agree on a fixed price with the driver who will also act as your tour guide.

Fast facts:

  • Though Putrajaya is now the seat of government, Kuala Lumpur remains to be Malaysia’s national capital and the seat of the King.
  • Malaysia only shifted their seat of government in the late 90s to avoid congestion in the capital.
  • Almost all of the ministries are now in Putrajaya except for the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Works which are still in KL.
  • A 650-hectare, man-mad lake is found in the middle of the city. The Malaysian government has said before that the main reason (aside from the obvious aesthetics and recreation opportunities it can bring) the lake was made was to act as a “natural cooling system” for the city. And man, do they need it. Putrajaya is way more hot and humid than KL. I couldn’t stand not having a roof over my head for 2 minutes. I cannot possibly imagine how hot it would be without that lake.

Okay, enough yapping. Let me show you the breathtaking view from the elevated Putrajaya International Convention Centre:

I feel like I was looking at a real-life post card. Though I had to cut the sight seeing from here. PICC is on top of a hill and MUCH closer to the sun. I had to get back into the car right away.

We were there at around 2 in the afternoon. I wouldn’t advise to go to Putrajaya at that time. The sun can be very unforgiving. It’s best to go at around 5 in the afternoon and wait for the sunset at around 7pm.

The PICC. My husband made a joke that it kinda looks like a cowboy hat from afar. One of his younger colleagues said it looked like a UFO. What do you think?

Before you get to the PICC, you will pass the Seri Gemilang Bridge which I find really pretty.

The 240-metre long bridge has intricately designed columns or balusters that light up at night.

From there, we drove for a bit to the Palace of Justice known for its Islamic-inspired architecture. It was a holiday that day so we couldn’t try to get in. Too bad. The internet says it’s really pretty inside.

Love the details of the dome!

But the highlight of our short trip was the Putra Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque. Opened in 1999, the construction of the Putra Mosque reportedly cost around RM 250 million. It is massive and it can accommodate up to  15 thousand people.

There’s a certain level of mystique that comes with places of worship like churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.

The entrance.

I’ve never been inside a mosque before even though we have a couple of them in Manila so this was a totally new experience for me. I had this notion before that you have to be Muslim to enter one but it turns out a lot of mosques are open to non-Muslims but only at certain hours.

The Pink Mosque is open to tourists every Saturday to Thursday and from 9am-12:30pm, 2-4pm, and 5:30-6pm. On Fridays, the day of worship for Muslims, you can only visit between 3-4pm and 5:30-6pm. Entrance is free.

People who wish to visit the mosque must also dress appropriately. Women should be covered up and should wear a veil. But if you’re not suitably dressed, you will be directed to a counter that will lend you robes – also for free.

The robe counter is located right next to the souvenir shop.

Totally covering up is not really one of my strongest suits and this gave my husband something to laugh about:

Good thing I actually like maroon.

From there, you can step into the beautiful, sunlit courtyard called ‘Sahn’.

The impressive minaret is 116 metres tall and has 5 tiers which represent the 5 pillars of Islam.

To enter the prayer room, you would have to take off your shoes. Neat freaks might be a bit skeptical but it’s totally worth it.

Intricately designed walls and a wall to wall carpet but the best thing about the mosque is something you will see when you look up –

The main dome as well as the smaller ones are made of pink granite.

Tourists taking photos

The mosque is rather different from the place of worship that I myself grew up in. Muslims are not supposed to have statues and they don’t have saints as well so it’s basically a big beautiful room full of space where people can pray.

Though there’s no entrance fee, people can leave donations for the maintenance of the mosque.

The mystique of the place was kind of ruined by us tourists taking photos. So I totally understand why they don’t let non-Muslims in during their service. There were still a couple of Muslims praying on one side of the room at that time so my husband and I spoked in hushed voices. Some of the other tourists weren’t as sensitive though. It kind of made me feel bad.

Just on the other side of the Putra Square outside the Pink Mosque is the Prime Minister’s office called the Perdana Putra – another example of exquisite Islamic architecture.

It’s green domes shine under the sunlight. A building fit for the office of the country’s most powerful man.

Flags at the square were at half mast on that day due to the MH17 tragedy.

Yet on another side of the square is the Putra Souq –  a shopping and dining area that opens up to a boardwalk by the lake.

The boardwalk has good view of the Putra Bridge…

…the Istana Darul Ehsan, one of the royal residences of the Sultan of the Malaysian State of Selangor

… and the back of the Pink Mosque.

Don’t forget to bring an umbrella and your sunglasses. Like I said earlier, the sun was just so harsh. Bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated.

It’s best to visit Putrajaya on weekends (it’s less busy as government offices are closed) or on a holiday.

We haven’t seen everything there yet as out trip was kind of short (we all had something else scheduled that day). So we promised to just come back for the others. Though I did get a glimpse of the foreign ministry which is yet another pretty Islamic-themed building.

More later.

Love,

Carol

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