The Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur is one of my favourite museums in the world. I was in KL last year for several weeks in transit to India. Unfortunately, my Indian visa didn’t come through soon enough to enable me to head to Kerala as planned.
My first real contact with Islam came a few years prior during my time working for GOOG launching products in the European and African emerging markets; namely Egypt, Turkey, Dubai and Israel. It’s a faith that revealed itself to me from a multitude of angles. Hotly contested in Jerusalem on the foot of The Dome of the Rock. Hauntingly beautiful in the early morning call for salah in Istanbul. Mysterious and shrouded on the streets of Cairo amongst burqa’d women in the boiling heat.
I can’t ever claim to know everything there is to know about Islam. And I’m hesitant, even, to talk of what I’ve seen and heard during my time in these Muslim countries. What I do know is that it’s a faith surrounded in breathtaking art.
The mosques, the calligraphy, the intricate floral designs – all of it is astoundingly beautiful. You can’t look at Islamic art and deny that it was inspired by man’s personal relationship with the divine.
A follow-up to my KL food post!
Durian. Mmmmm strange strange strange durian!
Buy durian by the weight!
Lok Lok cart (a.k.a. street kebab cart)
[Finally! Access to my Flickr account! This after a week of emails and crying on the phone with Yahoo people. You guys, don't EVER forget the answers to your own security questions, otherwise you have no hope in hell of gaining access to whatever account you're locked out off! Yeesh!]
Below are some pictures from Kuala Lumpur. My five day stay there was a mixed bag. I got to catch up with an old friend, I went to one of the best museums I’ve ever been to (Islamic Arts Museum) and I ate some crazy foods! Unfortunately, there were also some drawbacks. My India visa didn’t go through, I got harassed by annoying men everyday near my hotel and I basically had to fight with taxi drivers all the time to pay a fair fare! *sigh* Oh Asia, how I love thee!
Next post: pics from Singapore!
Yesterday, I spent three hours at the Islamic Arts Museum here in KL. I think it’s my favourite museum of all time. It’s tiny but beautiful. What I love about it and why I like it more than the crazy big beautiful museums in Europe (like the British Museum, for example) is that I learned SO much during my time in there. Instead of treating their artifacts like collector’s items and then letting the public take a look, this place made it a real point to educate the visitor about Islam.
I learned about the six different types of calligraphy used in ancient versions of the Qu’ran. I learned about hajj (the pilgrim’s journey to mecca), I learned about mosque architecture and I learned about prints and textiles and geometric design. I think I lapped up every word/diagram/exhibit in that place. Such a feast for the mind.
I’d post pictures of the place but I accidentally locked myself out of my Flickr account and Yahoo is being very unresponsive in helping me to solve the problem. =P Anyway, it’s a really great place and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting here.
Tonight I had one of the best meals yet, in KL’s Jalan Alor street, a carnival-like night market of hawker stalls featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Malaysia episode. I met with Uncle Jack’s two nephews for a meal of authentic proportions! To eat Malay style, you can’t be afraid to get dirty – food stall dirty. I tried frog’s legs congi, fried oysters, fermented boiled egg and lok lok (which is a food stall version of fondue but with every possible vegetable, meat and seafood – including jellyfish! – you can find on a stick, boiled/fried and then dipped in chili, satay or sweet sauce). And all eaten on multi-coloured plastic lawn furniture in the middle of the street. So fun and so delicious!
Frog tastes like chicken, oysters taste divine, jellyfish taste like crunchy sugarless gummy bears and fermented black eggs taste like ammonia and sugar soaked egg yolk. What a feast for the senses!
And, I had durian! YES! DURIAN! Usually deemed the “stinky fruit” it has a very distinctive odour and in my opinion, is not at all as bad as its reputation. I can’t decide if it’s sweet, sour or bitter and maybe it’s actually everything all at once but durian isn’t just a fruit. It’s an experience. It’s smooth and sticky and fibrous and thick, a solid, liquid fruity piece of protein all in one little bundle of yellow buttery joy. I actually think that people just don’t know how to react to the myriad of flavours that comes at them when they eat durian (Andrew Zimmern from the Food Network’s Bizarre Foods couldn’t stomach durian and had to spit it out!). It doesn’t actually taste bad – it’s just very different from any other thing that I’ve ever eaten before! It doesn’t taste like a fruit nor a vegetable, and it’s thick and heavy enough to be eaten as a main meal (actually, TJ and J said that sometimes they eat durian with rice!). Maybe this is why it’s revered as “the king of fruits” in Southeast Asia. They even have all-you-can-eat durian buffets here!
So great! Great great great to get a local flavor for a new place. And now my hands and breath and probably my entire room smell of durian. They’ve actually banned durian from hotels because it is THAT pungent!
Thanks J, TJ and S for taking me out! So sweet and so so fun!