Saturday, June 28, 2008


Al Haram with Kaabah in the center and Muslim devouts performing their tawaf (circling seven times around the Kaabah)

If asked what is the best place to visit in this world, I would definitely say Mekkah as my only choice. Indeed I think many would pick it as their only and most favorite place. The answer cannot be wrong since what other places in the world are visited more than several times? Muslims all over the world would make their obligatory visit once and then strive hard again to make the second and subsequent visits. The pull is strongest for reasons known to the visitor himself.

The imposing interior of Al Haram as on the first floor

My father-in-law at his octogenarian age has just returned home from his umrah visit to Mekkah and Madinah. This would be his one score (less one) visit to the Islam's holy land. Not that he has promised himself a visit every two years or so if possible but he has also with Allah's will taken friends or relatives along for the visit too.

On this occassion all fifteen except two were on their repeat visits to the two holy cities. What would be the attraction or the pull? Surely no other places in the world would see people visiting it again and again. Coincidently each time we took leave to come home, we would say our prayers requesting ardently that that other visit would follow.

I would recalled two specific prayers that we say upon leaving the holy cities. One at Madinah and the other at Mekkah.

'Doa Ziarah Selamat Tinggal di Madinah'

" Ya Allah! Janganlah Engkau jadikan ziarahku ke tempat mulia ini sebagai kali terakhir. Kurniakan bagiku kepadanya ziarah untuk sekalian kalinya dalam kebajikan, kesejahteraan, kesihatan dan keselamatan"

Doa Tawaf Wida'

"..... Ya Allah! Murahkan rezekiku supaya dapat kembali menziarahi Baitullah berulang kali dengan bertaubat, beribadat, mengucap syukur dan puji-pujian ....."

To know the correct answer then go for the visit yourself. You would find within you why others so willingly want to make repeat visits. Insya Allah.

Obligingly most visitors would spent invariably seven to ten days at Mekkah and at least three to four days at Madinah. By any measure it is exclusive since no traveller would give that much of the time to be at one place if he was visiting places for leisure. But Mekkah and Madinah are extraordinary places. Some would stay indefinitely if so allowed.


One of the latest commercial centres at Mekkah found at Zam-Zam Towers meeting the needs and wants of the many international vistors that come to the city throughout the year.

Another view of the imposing interior with two main towers seen in the background and the jemaah reading the Koran as they waited for the call of Isyak prayer.


This is the city of Mekkah as observed from the top of a hill which I had the opportunity to drive up to with the help of my Malaysian 'anak angkat' who fortunately is working in the city. You may observe the cleared section at the top right hand corner of the picture.The 'sofitel' hotel still standing is also marked for demolition. The barber shops and the bazaar at its corner are no more.Part of the 'sae' section of the Al Haram is seen clearly.The imposing high rise at the left of the picture is the new Zam-Zam Tower standing higher than the other old buildings including the King's palace. It is reported that development for the next 5 years will take the city to its modernization height attracting SR100 billion for the central area of Mekkah. The section at the bottom left hand corner marked a growth area with new whitewashed buildings with the older quarters still to be seen.

AFTER several visits to Mekkah this is the first time that we had the opportunity to view the city from atop of a hill.Mekkah lies in a valley and this is clearly identified in the photos. There is tremendous work going on at Mekkah day and night. The Al-Haram Mosque and its surroundings gets the greatest attention. Many of the old buildings, hotels, shops, archade etc have been demolished making way for a modern Mekkah with extensive renovation at Al Haram itself. In the next FIVE YEARS Al Haram will be as imposing and even far grandeur than Masjid Nabawi in Medinah and opening more space for jemaah to perform their prayers. New buildings for accomodation and commercial will take modern features offering the best to the Muslim communities and the pilgrims.

The 30 storey Hilton Hotel and Towers is dwarfed by the new Zam Zam towers that have been erected nearby. You will notice this imposing building reaching for the sky. For the moment expect yourself to be located quite a distance from Al Haram unless you wish to stay at Ta'whid InterContinental, Hilton Mekkah or the new Zam Zam Towers.

Photos taken 22 June 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008


This is Istana Che Sepachendera as it is today. The masonry and wood works needs attention and so too other compartments of the building. The staircases by the sides lead to the first floor and a mysterious staircase yet to be discovered or located take you to the second floor with an open veranda as seen. We are sure it will be a labor of love for the conservation and restoration works.

Jabatan Warisan Negara called for tender works on the conservation of six buildings in the country on 23 May 2008. Istana Che Sepachendera mentioned earlier in this blog is included. The others are:

a. Bangunan Capitol Jalan Bendahara Melaka
b. Bangunan Lama Mahkamah Tinggi Jalan Kota Melaka
c. Bangunan Lama Masjid Kg Belimbing Dalam Durian Tunggal Melaka
d. Bangunan Muzium Sultan Abu Bakar Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah Pekan Pahang
e. Bangunan Lama Masjid Mulong Kota Bharu Kelantan D.Naim

All contractors wanting to participate in the projects have to attend site visits arranged for the purpose of familiarizing with the subject as well as to receive briefings from the respective consultants and Jabatan Warisan Negara representative.

For Istana Che Sepachendera Alor Star the site visit took place June 6, 2008 at 10.30 am. It marked the execution of the restoration of a once beautiful palace no doubt built with tender love and appreciation for a dear wife. Istana Che Sepachendera built in 1882 took the name of the first wife of Sultan (Sir) Abdul Hamid Halim Shah ibni Al Marhum Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Mukaram Shah ( 4 June 1864 - 13 May 1943) who ruled from 1882 till 1943.

It will be at least two months later when all tender documents will be processed and the successful tenderer will be awarded and only then works will start. We look forward to the restoration and conservation of perhaps one of the earliest royal palaces in the state and fortunately still standing though not in its former splendour.

Anak Arshad Architect as the lead consultant assisted by the respective engineers and quantity surveyor will get down to the painstaking work once the successful contractor took possession of the project site.

Jabatan Warisan Negara representative and the Consultants briefed the contractors who have shown interest in tendering for the project.

Jabatan Warisan Negara thankfully is making a strong effort at keeping stock and reestablishing the much forgotten historic buildings throughout the country. Malacca and Penang by virtue of their sizes and inherent locations of historic buildings gained earlier footholds in the conservation direction. Apparently the two states have more buildings to be saved and conserved than the other states in the country. As in the above listing there are strong indicators that the department is now focusing beyond the two states. Kelantan , Pahang, Kelantan and Kedah and other states including Sabah and Sarawak have come to the fore forward in its program.

For reference you may click to know more about Jabatan Warisan Negara. It does also call for suggestions and comments from members of the public .

Pictures taken on 6 Jun 2008 on the occasion of the site visit coincidentally happened to be two days off the anniversary of Al Marhum's birthday. Maybe we have chosen a significant date to start the restoration and conservation exercise.

This is one teacher's quarters or a government building built by PWD prior to Merdeka 1957. The wooden staircase has been replaced and a wall built underneath the house. The house originally stood on stilts. The building is in the vicinity of the Istana.

A five minutes walk from Istana Che Sepachendera bring us to this imposing building - the Alor Star Tower where you would have a bird eye view of the palace and its surrounding plus the the river at the back. It is of course a far cry from its original scene 100 years ago where you would imagine sampan tied to poles by the river and horse carts on the road. The river itself would be a source of activities.. The small Malay Kampong by the Istana side perhaps reflected the communion between the Istana and the community.

Updates will follow when the works begin

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


We were on the move all through the last week of May 2008. Rightly so as the tachometer on the Honda CRV clocked a total of 2000 kilometers. That had taken us to FRIM ( Forest Research Institute) Station at Mata Air, Perlis , halting at Sungai Petani for a nocturnal meeting and proceeded to Baling for a site meeting the next day and continuing in the late afternoon to cross Banjaran Titi Wangsa till we arrived at Kota Bharu Kelantan.

Rooms at the bigger hotels were hard to come during the school holiday break unless you have made earlier bookings and more since it coincided with marriage functions organized during this time of the year. Don't expect any discounted rate either. Going by the quality hotels available in a city Kota Bharu is certainly ahead of its sister towns like Alor Star, Ipoh, Kuala Trengganu or Seremban. If Kuala Lumpur or Penang saw traffic jams during the school break, be ready to endure the same at Kota Bharu too. After a respite of two days meeting old colleagues and attending a wedding 'khenduri' we moved on to the national capital, traveling for the first time on the Kota Bharu - Gua Musang road and cutting across the highland again till we reached Simpang Pulai and connecting to the North South Highway. The cool Cameron Highland for a brief moment managed to lift the spirit and certainly caused us to stop at least to buy fresh greens. It was an eight hour drive with a short stop at Gua Musang Rest area. The only RnR along the drive from Kota Bharu found just outside Gua Musang certainly could not entertain the large crowd who stopped for what it was meant to be. Those traveling on the North South Highway must be thankful for what they have been served with: clean rest areas with all conveniences plus the excellant road. Gua Musang, Jeli, Kuala Lipis and Pasir Mas are names or halting stations familiar with rail travelers who boarded the train at KualaLumpur that stopped at Gemas before moving north again. Sadly I have not yet been a passenger on that trip. I believe it is a worthwhile journey because it takes an adventure through some of the virgin forest of the country.

A longer stay at Gua Musang would allow us to observe the rock formation that straddled on both side of the road as you enter the town. The town deserved a second visit just to discover how smacked in the middle of the peninsular it has come forward to meet the expansion as a result of the new route's communication. You could also continue driving southward passing through Kuala Lipis and Raub and later encroached into the Karak Highway or even crossed to the Gap from Raub and down to Kuala Kubu Bharu and halting at Frazer's Hill. The varied routes available would certainly tempt any motorist to explore the region.

Being at the peripheral zone of Taman Negara, a halt at Kuala Lipis would have taken us to the much acclaimed site. Much as it has been our desire to move into that natural enclave it has to wait till we come along this way again. We have to be in Kuala Lumpur the next day for another appointment.

Our work cum break tour literally meant traveling equal to driving from Bukit Kayu Itam to Johore Bharu and back. The photos accompanying likewise took in the the attractions, comradeship and project sites visited. This apparently is like they say 'killing two birds with one stone'. Strangely enough it was a sight for sore eyes when a black bird came to perch on the fruit tree just across our veranda at Subang Jaya. The area was once an oil palm plantation before new housing and development took over and drove all the forest creatures away. The return of birds and squirrels to the area though in small numbers heralds a charm beginning. We never miss the sight of birds especially that come chirping and at times knocking on our window panes. They bring happy greetings.

For all things that come our way, it would be useful that we learn to cope with ease and trust. The month end escapade plus assignments in between tested our endurance while yet allowing a reprieve from pumping in petrol for the journey at a substantial increase the very day we arrived back home.

June 4, 2008 at Kulim to inspect works done for the current project at hand and due for completion.

The signage besides other things declared that the project has been completed as scheduled

A spot for the residents ( staff and students) to relax and at the same time organized their bbq parties if need be

May 31, 2008 at Kota Bharu. It was good to meet friends that you have known several decades ago again. "Khenduri' especially a wedding festivity normally bring about such unexpected encounter.

29 May 2008. Stop at Baling for the project site meeting. Viewing the present status and the up coming school building with a commanding view of the surrounding hills you cannot help appreciating how fortunate school students are. The workers, foreign as well local enjoy spartan accommodation at their temporary site.

May 28, 2008 earlier on we were at FRIM station in Perlis for a meeting and where teak trees grow to their full height and maturity. It was a start to a project at hand. Scouting around near the Kama Taso Lake nearby we came across a wayside stall that sold 'pekasam' ( fermented fresh water fishes). Caught on the view finder were fishes freshly hauled from the lake. Take your choice. Fried and taken with 'pekasam' it would be mouth watering to say the least .

Monday, June 2, 2008


We were in Kota Bharu during the last days of May. It was a gathering of sorts for the family as another nephew weds again. The truth is that we have many nephews and nieces and it is customary and obligatory that we attend their grandest day when possible. Moreover this happened to be my sister's son and being the school holiday season we too joined the bandwagon of holiday makers. Kota Bharu as always attracted visitors all over the country during the holiday season and this is no exception. The routes into the city were jammed with cars and buses and wedding receptions during the holiday period added to the chaotic situation. Nevertheless we salute the motorists for adjusting to the situation and took things calmly. However this is not the crux of the story. The wedding is and especially one its enduring characteristics.

Malay or any other ethnic wedding has its religious and cultural significances etched by years of practice. Some may be recent additions brought about by the explosive modern and border less society. Still the old die-hards remained though we questioned whether their existence and practice are clearly understood or just done out of mere casualty. The significance of things becomes an issue.

The two photos you see here highlighted the question at hand and seek to find the relevance and significance. More seriously do we understand and practise all its rudiments or do it with all its frills?

The bridegroom or more specifically the husband since both have been solemnly married now gives his partner in life the first mouthful. It signifies their precious moment and happiest of couple. Rightly it vouched for the husband's duty to look and care for her and the family. Then it was a mouthful of yellow rice rolled up into a small ball piece that became the medium. Now it could be a small piece of cake or a spoonful of rice with added dishes. It was more elaborate before with the respective parents giving the 'mouthful' to their children as their last acts as parents and ending their responsibilities to them while also accepting their extended family when they feed their respective son or daughter- in- laws. Sadly we observe presently it stopped with the photo session and the parents are no where to be seen obviously busy entertaining the hundreds of guests.

Secondly as in the photo below the bride and bridegroom have their first meeting after the 'akad nikah'. This solemnised meeting is politely signified as 'membatalkan air sembahyang'. Both must realise their obligations to one another and that consequences to their actions they must observe the tenets of Islam and not forgetting the five daily prayers per day. It enjoined upon both to always support and advise one another in the course of their future lives.

Other consequences and observations during the wedding ceremony perhaps need to be elaborated less their significances are lost or eclipsed by other injunctions or wants from modern tendencies.

My brief looks at other ethnic weddings where 'feeding the bride or bridegroom' has become a tradition too is certainly worthy for exploration.