In all of my travels I have visited countless places of religious worship. I have visited stunning Catholic churches in Italy, sparkling Buddhist temples in Thailand, wooden monasteries in the Himalayas and interesting Chinese and Hindu temples in several different cities in the world. But strangely enough, I had never visited a Mosque. That all changed when I got to Penang in Malaysia.
Kapitan Keling Mosque (Masjid Kapitan Keling) is the oldest and largest Mosque in George Town. Located on the busy corner of Buckingham and Pitt Street, this magnificent Mosque can be seen from a fair way away, its minaret towering above the surrounding buildings.
The mosque was originally built in the late 18th century for the large number of Indian Muslim immigrants that came to the city, but as their numbers grew, a new, larger mosque had to be built to accommodate them. The current building was built in 1916, and it is definitely large enough to fit a LOT of people.
For Non-Muslims, the Mosque is open for viewing outside of the main prayer times, in the afternoon between 1-5pm. Admission is free and you need to wear the purple robe that is provided.
The outside of the building and its surrounding gardens and tower is beautiful, but the interior of the mosque is just stunning. The huge arches rise above endless lines of prayer rugs on the shining floor below. A magnificent chandelier hangs below the huge central dome and there are panels in Arabic and beautiful stained glass windows all around. I can only imagine what this place must look like when it is full of devoted prayers first thing in the morning.
As I walked around the mosque, a single Muslim man came in and knelt down in the middle of the huge mosque to pray. He had the entire place all to himself. I wondered if this was the only time that he could do his prayers, or if he preferred the solitude of praying alone. Perhaps he had already prayed with the masses that morning, and had just stopped in again since he was in the area. I quietly left him to his prayers and exited the building.
I was pleased that I had finally visited a mosque. I may not be religious, but learning about the different religions and exploring their places of worship definitely interests me. In that same day, I had already visited a Hindu temple and two different Chinese temples. In a place like George Town in Penang, there are so many different religions all existing in harmony in the one place. I like that. I thought to myself that it would be great if the rest of the world could do the same.