Friday, February 29, 2008


Our earlier visit saw us viewing the sight of Masjid Zahir. Stepping out of the mosque compound we find ourselves in a wide open space interpose with characteristic buildings spread out within an area of no more than five acres in size.

Above is a wide angle view that takes in the 'Balai Nobat', 'Balai Jam' and the 'Zahir Mosque'. All the three buildings plus the 'Balai Besar' which is right in front of the mosque were constructed during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid ( 1882 - 1943)who is celebrated as the founder of modern Kedah.

These historical and architectural splendor of Alor Star situated at the 'Golden Square' in the city will certainly give visitors moments to savour the richness of the northern state of Malaysia which provide Islamic, Siamese and European flavor besides its ethnic past. Being a farming and effectively rice -planting granary of Malaysia, Kedah two characteristic dry and wet seasons will give the visitors an experience unlike in other parts of the country. The green padi fields in their total spread over the Kedah plain change to golden hue when the padi stalks ripen and it is occasions for farmers to be thankful for the bounty. Kites flying in the open sky, ushered by the cool north-eastern breeze added to the excitement. It was only a half century ago when the wide open spaces in front of 'Masjid Zahir' and between 'Balai Nobat' and the 'Balai Seni Negeri' were arenas which saw kite fights in the city too. while footballs or even Royal Police Band would perform on the fields affectionately known as 'Padang Court' recognizing that the High Court Building was at the southern end before it occupied the new building in the northern sector, next to the 'Balai Nobat'. It is still there right now though the building is undergoing restructuring for a Royal Gallery.

The Balai Nobat ( The Royal 'Nobat Tower') built in 1904

Balai Jam ( Clock Tower) built in 1912. It continues to strike the hour resonating the time to those lucky enough to live close by and the correct time for prayers at Zahir Mosque.

'Balai Besar' Front View . Once the main official hall for all state functions built in 1898 replacing the original building during Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Muadzam Shah's reign( 1710 -1778) . Sometimes overwhelmed by security aspect officials forget how decorative fencing as seen above disfavor true appreciation of the building's structure and more so reduce true photo shots of what would have been a marvelous image.

'The Balai Besar ' side view. Again visitors are restricted to a distant viewing unable to really appreciate the history, culture, construction and beauty within its frame. As more people are disallowed to realise its intrinsic characteristics, it would not be long before none knows of its previous splendor and contribution to Kedah state. Hopefully may those trusted with beautification and planning take heed of the need to be exacting and conscious of many alternatives.

Built in 1892 and now occupied by the Kedah Art Gallery, this renovated building at the southern fringe of the square was at earlier time the High Court Building and later an Administrative Office for various Departments.The path under the porch as seen in the photo reminded me of those times during the Japanese Occupation of Kedah when as school children we marched past, saluting the Japanese officers as they distributed packets of sugar etc after paying tribute to the 'raising sun'. The handout was of course much sought as sugar was scarce and we gleefully took home after school hours. It had two cannons positioned adjacent to one another in front facing the field but with most prized items and subjected to development they too have disappeared as several others built to commemorate the official opening of Zahir Mosque.

This picturesque and commemorative square in the city housing the above buildings can be liken to 'Dataran Merdeka' in Kuala Lumpur pulling visitors to their sites. With greater care, awareness and determination for preservation of historic sites, others nearby could be incorporated thus enlarging and positioning 'Dataran Emas' ( Golden Square) as a must visit site in Kedah and especially Alor Star.


Azizi Ahmad Termizi: said...

Pak Non

Before they built the menara Alor Setar, the Balai Nobat was the a landmark for this city. Simple yet beautiful, with historic and cultural significance for Kedahans (royalty). To me it is still the iconic landmark for Alor Setar, not the tower!

AainaA said...

Gorgeous Shots! Will you be covering Penang soon ?

Anonymous said...

They're building/renovating something at that Masjid Zahir/Balai Seni square or Paris fountain as people here would say. I think it is a new tourist spot.

And the newly renovated High Court, which is now known as Galeria Sultan Abdul Halim is almost finish...

I love Alor Star!