Visiting Sabah state mosque in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Surely the State mosque of Kota Kinabalu would be easier to find than a Kota Kinabalu’s city mosque?
A grouchy bus driver could not get the concept I wanted to visit the state mosque at all. It involved some references to Allah and some gentle persuasion from a local passenger nearby to comfort him into realizing this is where I wanted to go. Unfortunately, I am going through a phase of using my GPS along with Google maps, it meant another mini argument as he pulled over and said we were here.
If all else fails, blame the guidebook and Google
In all honesty the guidebooks overly fancy description of the state mosques octopus like design. Plus the fact that Google maps told me I was somewhere near a park 5km to the south, told me I was right to be skeptical. Sure enough a local lady once again came to my rescue and pointed out the subdued grey mosque across the busy road.
A guidebook author who might never have seen a mosque before?
I got out and remembered my misgivings towards this particular guidebooks overenthusiastic and descriptive writing. The state mosque was painted in a near battleship grey color, and the dome, while golden, lacked any sparkle.
Where the guidebook writer got their octopus style design notion from, I don’t know.
But I do think they should visit some more mosques, or at least look at some pictures to see how a generic one usually looks.
How to make a lackluster visit to the Sabah state mosque, that bit more
Undeterred I walked around and did my best to photograph it on a cloudy day. A blue background might have helped, but all the same it wasn’t as picturesque as the city mosque. I caught a glimpse of the inside through an open window. Whitewashed walls, empty space and carpet. I wasn’t even going to go inside until a little man waved at me as I passed by the main doors.
A Tout. That was the first thing that sprang to mind. He had that look about him. The type of look that said –
“I want to be your fake friend and ask for money to show you around a place that you can easily see for yourself anyway.”
I walked on, hoping he would leave. Then doubled back to remove my shoes and socks for my own personal tour. Just to be sure I wan’t missing out on anything massively important. An annoying habit, I don’t really want to break. One of the reasons I’m best left alone to travel I fear. The signboard was full of old photographs of past Imams and notes for upcoming events. Stellar stuff indeed, but I persevered.
Up ahead there was a pool of water with a few tiled steps dotted through it, and to my left a staircase. Then, to my ire, I spotted the same little man waving at me from behind the stairs.
Head down I began my polite decent up the stairwell and tried to ignore him.
An unwanted tour from a local caretaker
“Welcome sir,” he smiled wistfully. A man in his twenties, the economics of time had not been so kind to him. He looked older than he was, a sense of malnutrition and hard sleep more than anything else sprang to mind.
“I’m fine thanks, just looking.”
“Yes sir, this way.”
I was caught. How can you escape someone in their own “house” when they don’t want you to be alone.
We continued into the large prayer room and I got the usual secretive finger to the lips signal that meant I could take a photograph. He was clearly looking for bonus points.
There wasn’t anything special to see, but I obliged the man. And then wondered again how much he was going to ask for all this. A quick tour around the inner sanctum with mandatory stops for photographs and we were done. It’s not all that big inside the mosque.
Yes, personal donations in religious buildings do work
I was just about to put on my shoes and ponder where my small notes and coins were when the little man caught my attention with another little wave once again. How can you dislike someone who keeps waving at you from behind things like a little child?
“You want to go up?” he said with a wide beaming smile gesturing to the minaret.
Taking a set of heavy keys from the front desk we passed some praying ladies and crossed the steps surrounded by water. A padlocked gate was opened and rubber sandals handed to me. This was worth his tip alone!
Climbing the minaret of the state mosque
I was surprised the minaret was so dirty. Strewn as it was with broken light bulbs and empty light bulb boxes more than anything else.
We reached the first level and the view was really quite worth it. The golden dome was now quite a spectacle as it overlooked Kota Kinabalu bay. Then it was up to the highest level.
“How long you work here?” I asked.
“Two month sir. I look after the Mosque.”
We scanned the landscape before us. It was indeed a good view.
Yes, the predictable had just happened. Was he planning to push me off the top if I didn’t tip?
But, in fairness to the little guy the tip was worth it for the view alone. And, his quirky mandatory tour. Moreover, it was the entrance price to a place few get to walk up nor get a view from. I say this in the assumption that I’ve just missed the daily package tour … but hope not.
Everyone hates a complainer, prepare to hate me as I rant about the most annoying thing in Sabah
Then last post from Sabah