Observations – KL Visit – Islamic Art Museum part 1

Wow…a month of no posting? That is so not me. But then, things happen – like getting a terrible fever for two weeks, and then  severe procrastination (which takes up most of my time anyway. However, today I have some spare time in the office, so I am going to start blogging again. This time, I am starting the KL trip series, regarding my visit to the Islamic Art Museum.

After spending some time trying to find the best pixel ratio for my photos so that it can be uploaded, I finally got the optimal size…which is about 65% less than the original. Thankfully, the pictures still looks very good and have good details , so all is not lost, I guess.

So as you might know, a few months ago I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my parents and my brother, and one of the highlight of my journey there is my visit to the Islamic Art Museum Malaysia. Of course, being an aficionado of Islamic art, I just had to go to the museum after reading it on Tripadvisor.com, even if it means I have to drag my family  along (who, unlike me, doesn’t share my passion for art)

The place is rather secluded, even though it is situated right next to the modern National Mosque that when I arrive, hordes of tourist buses were parked in the mosque’s vicinity. The gentleman of a taxi driver we employed were confused when I mentioned Islamic Arts Museum – perhaps because he is Chinese – that seemingly he is not familiar with the place. I mentioned that it is near to the National Mosque, then it struck him. Even then, when we were in the area he still struggles to find the place…either that or he is trying to get the taxi fare higher. It took us about 15-20 minutes from Ulu Pudu area to the museum, and fare costs about RM15…not that I take particular attention to it. If you are planning to come to the museum on your visit to KL, tell the taxi driver to go to the area where the National Mosque as well as the Bird Park is, and take note of the museum’s address and perhaps show him the map to the museum – it might save you a lot of time and money.

Arriving at the front door of the museum, we saw a modern facade with a traditional Islamic twist. The front gate of the museum has modern sleek lines, with floor-to-ceiling glass panels and doors, but the whole front facade is decorated with blue-green Arabesque decorative tiles, similar to the ones you might be able to see in Iranian mosques. on the top of the facade is a calligraphy of an excerpt from the Qur’an which reads

قُلْ سِيرُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ فَٱنظُرُوا۟ كَيْفَ بَدَأَ ٱلْخَلْقَ ۚ ثُمَّ ٱللَّهُ يُنشِئُ ٱلنَّشْأَةَ ٱلْءَاخِرَةَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ قَدِيرٌۭ

Which means – Roam the earth and observe how the creation was initiated,. Thus God will establish the final creation. Verily, God is capable of all things.The front facade of the museum. Note the calligraphy on top of the facade, the flanking panels of tiles on the either side, the modernistic front door. There is a dome, but I forgot if there is any decoration in it. Also, note the car – it was the taxi we were in, never realized how beaten up it looked like…until now.

Having not seen such tiles in my life before I spend some time examining the tiles closely, while waiting for my brother to arrive. The blue-green tiles were just magnificent to behold. On close inspection, you can see the Arabesques were done tiled piece by piece just how it was made traditionally – meaning it wasn’t just huge slabs of tiles with pre-assembled patterns but mosaics of tiles that forms flowers, stalks, leaves and medallions. My parents watches me as I gasped and oohed and aahed.

A close-up of the blue-green tiles of the facade. You can see the separate tiles of each segment of the blue-green tiles as well as the medallions and the flowers.

Entering the lobby of the hotel…I mean the museum, my attention was immediately diverted to the ceiling. The intricately designed ceiling was made in a 10-pointed star, with very ornate Arabesque design all over the star. The design is almost non-traditional in Islamic art sort of way, perhaps it looks more like a design found in Malay art, or maybe it looks strange because it is more suitable for the inside of a dome…or perhaps because of the lack of colour? The design itself is not on the ceiling, but protrudes down forming a rather 3D sculpture.

The ornate ceiling, greeting visitors as they enter the museum. The front counter is modern decorated with Kufic calligraphy. This is where you first enter the museum, and get your tickets and visitor’s map and information pamphlet. There is also a small souvenir kiosk next to the staircase and the workshops, a branch of the much larger souvenir shop on the first floor.

After buying the tickets (which by the way costs RM12 per person…seniors and young children gets half price) for three people ; me and my parents, which summed up to RM36, the counter staff courteously given us instructions as well as an A5 sized pamphlet with a mini-map of the entire museum. The map is colour coded to show different parts and exhibits of the museum. Immediately to the left of the entrance is the souvenir kiosk and workshops as well as toilets, and to the right are lifts. As you enter, you would notice the gentle sound of water lapping – that’s the sound of the fountain upstairs, in the Arabic restaurant (which we never had the chance to go, the prices are okay but luxurious to my parents)

Inverted dome with gilded and mirrored accents on the first floor

Taking the lift up to the first floor (not sure if there is a staircase up to the floor) another surprise awaits us in the form of inverted dome. It was huge and like the ten pointed star in the ground floor, decorated with Arabesques. The dome is accentuated by mirrored medallions , outlined in gold.  You can easily see the ornate details of the inverted dome. In my opinion, it could be used as the external decoration of a dome – one can compare the inverted dome with the carved domes of the Mamluke era of Egypt, only this one is more smaller in size in terms of the designs.