During our walking tour on Sunday, we visited Masjid Jamek, a large and beautiful Mosque here in KL. This was my (JM) first visit to a Mosque so it was rather interesting. There is a big list at the door of "proper attire", which includes long pants or skirts, and long sleeves and a covered head for women. There was a kiosk as you entered where they had what looked like choir robes for tourists in shorts to put on over their clothes, and they also had a bunch of scarves, one of which I borrowed. I have to admit, I have often wondered how Muslim women in this part of the world that chose to cover themselves completely don’t just melt from the heat. They usually wear a long, close-fitting skirt with pleats in it so they can walk, topped with a long-sleeved, high-necked top which goes down to their knees, and then a head scarf. And while they often wear beautiful patterns and colors, the material tends to be polyester which does not breath. Let’s just say that after five minutes of walking around with a scarf tied over my head and around my neck I was a bit hot. (We have some pictures that we’ll post when we get internet up and running.)
I was struck with the difference between visiting this Mosque and visiting old churches in Europe, which I am sure many of you have done. I never feel like I am intruding when visiting a church, but here I did. Because of the nature of the religion, people come to the Mosque throughout the day for prayers (during which times it is closed to the public), and although the afternoon prayer had just finished when we were there, there were still a lot of people around. Also, everything is separated by gender, and I kept worrying that I was going to end up in the men’s area by accident! There were signs everywhere in five languages (Malay, Arabic, English, Chinese, Tamil) but it was still really confusing, so we didn’t try anything fancy. We just took a peaceful stoll around the main path, around a gorgeous open pavillion covered with guys lounging around and sleeping. Of course, they were doing this right next to a bunch of signs which said "No lounging around and sleeping here" which was pretty funny. All in all, a neat experience.