Thursday, March 03, 2016

Visiting a Mosque during Ramadan: Borneo’s Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

If you’re adventure-travel oriented, Borneo might be your one stop in Malaysia, and Malaysia the only Muslim country on your Southeast Asia itinerary.

Luckily, Borneo’s capital Kota Kinabalu offers plenty for outdoor lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike, including tribal long houses, Chinese clan Kongsis, buddhist temples, and an opportunity for your essential mosque visit, too.

We took a long, sweaty walk to the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque near Tanjung Lipat Beach from the city center.

The mosque may shine like a beacon on the peninsula, but its not really as close as it looks; local bus No.5A can be caught in front of Hotel Shangri-La and takes about 15 minutes if you’re not up for the trek.

The mosque is open for public visits daily from 8 am to 5pm except on Fridays and during prayer.

The mosque is situated on its infamous man-made moat, which makes it appear as if it is floating.

We somehow ended up entering the property in the back, where a group of women were preparing what I can only imagine from the smell was the tastiest Ramadan meal ever in a rear kitchen. 

Arriving at the front doors, I tried to peak my head into the mosque but was stopped by a bored looking man who directed me to a smaller, detached room further back on the property.

I was unsure what to expect but was greeted by a gaggle of friendly women who knew what to do and fitted me for my loaner hijab (head scarf) and abaya (gown).

They weren’t exactly as beautiful or flattering as the lacy and crystal encrusted garments I had seen in Kuala Lumpur’s luxury shopping malls, but they were pretty breezy and purple ain’t so bad.

The women were pro-selfie and allowed us to take some sassy mirror shots before bidding us farewell and sending us on our way.

We hadn’t booked any sort of mosque tour, but a man approached us inside and patiently answered all of our questions about Islam and Ramadan, including whether or not Muslims are permitted to drink liquid during the day during their fast (they aren’t).

I scuba dived with two Malaysian doctors later that week who turned down even water and hot tea!

If you know how vigorous, cold, and salty diving can be (and how hot and humid Borneo is), that’s pretty impressive.