The Great Mosque of Medan

December 2015 I got to visit Medan, which is located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Beside tasting the endless delicious street food, whether you’re a tourist or not, when you come to Medan, visiting or at least having had a glimpse of the Maimun Castle and The Grand Mosque of Medan is mandatory! Then again, they’re only 200 meters apart.

The Grand Mosque Al-Mashun is one of the many significant historical buildings in Medan. This mosque marks a history of the relation between the East-Indies and The Sultanate of Deli. Sultan Ma’moen Al Rasyid Perkasa Alamsyah was the one who initiated the building of this mosque. This mosque took three years to build (1906-1909). The first prayer was a friday prayer in 1906 and it has never stopped operating ever since. This mosque can get up to 1500 person btw.

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When you visit big cities in Indonesia, it is likely that you will come across colonial buildings from the East-Indies era. One of the many typical of colonial buildings are that the architecture has been modified to adapt to tropical weather i.e. high ceilings, big opening for ventilation, etc. And since we were colonized by the Dutch (for 350 years) the form of architecture were also mainly influenced by Dutch architecture. However this mosque is quite different. The  Dutch architect behind this glorious building, took a different style for the design. Using Middle East, Morocco, India and Spain elements within the style. According to the guide that I had interviewed, this mosque is in Moorish style.

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The mosque has 5 domes as a symbol of 5 prayer times and 8 pillars to symbolize 8 cardinal directions. Now, let’s talk about the colors! The colors you see within the interior, exterior patterns are mostly yellow/gold, green, red and blue. Each color also has their own philosophy. Yellow is the color of Melayu. It is usually accompanied with the color green. If you pay attention the Maimun Castle you will see that those colors are dominantly used in the palace. Red is for tobacco. Tobacco and mosque? Does it make sense? Actually it does. The Deli area was one of the biggest tobacco producers in the world. Even in those years, according to the guide, Deli had exported tobacco to places such as Cuba.They are proud of their tobacco, so they put in that red color for the sake of local touch to the mosque. Last but not least, blue, which is the color for peace.

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There is definitely a lot going on in the design itself. The carving, the details are mesmerizing! The carrara marble are sent from Italy, The chandelier is from France, the stained glass are from China, there is a longcase clock which was a gift from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

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Honestly, how can we not love this?

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It is amazing on how very detailed the work and ornaments are! Very well preserved! One of the door to get into the praying hall seen from the corridor. Moroccan shape door with colors!

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The patterns are also unique, using elements such as nature, even symbolic of people! If you take a close look at the pattern above, it is a symbol of person sitting. And by the repetition, it creates the impression of people sitting next to each other, like in prayer. That, is deep!

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Deep? Yes! I’ve always loved philosophy behind details! Because it’s soulful and beautiful. Have you ever imagined how much time and thought the designer has put into that pattern? Juggling between philosophy, art, technical work to finally achieve the final design of the pattern that now lasts more than a century!

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Tiles on the corridor ceiling. The tiles are all still original from a century ago. Just amazing!

In conclusion, Check this place out! Especially if you’re into history and design. It’s quite interesting to see a ‘colonial building’ that is not typical and has other traits. The ornaments, every inch of detail is worth to be appreciated.

The pictures are all taken by me. If you happen to use them for either private or academic purposes, kindly link them to this blog. Thank you very much and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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Fort Rotterdam Makassar

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Fort Rotterdam was one of the most historical places I got to visit in Makassar. It is an authentic site in Makassar’s history, a milestone of the Dutch’s colonization throughout the era.

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It is located near the Losari beach. In fact back then before the nowadays development, the fort was actually very near to the sea. Boats could even attach their ropes to the fort. One of the most interesting part of this fort, is when you take a look from above, the arrangement of the building – the architectural plan – looks like sea turtle! Today, it is used as a museum about Southern Sulawesi. Let’s take a look!

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This is the entrance of the area. If you pay attention to the stones, you can see that the stone are still original. It survived hundreds of years, I’m impressed!

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This is the pastor’s house and the picture beneath is is what used to be a church. There’s also a hospital. Houses of the generals, houses to keep food and spices, a house to keep prison (Pangeran Diponegoro was held as a prisoner there, he is regarded as one of Indonesia’s national hero). Literally it’s a community.

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This is a way to get to the upper side, we have to get through a sort of tunnel which was very low for the head. As I asked the question to the guide, he said that the tunnel was intended for rolling the canons to the upper side, that’s why the ceiling was built so low.

Let’s get to the museum! They preserve a lot of information about Southern Sulawesi’s history, culture and of course about the fort itself.

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This is an original scripture about La Galigo (a Southern Sulawesi character) in an ancient language and writing. It is so ancient that there is no one in the world who can read it (according to the guide). The content consist of stories and guidance about life. It’s like a bible to people back then I guess. There is also another script which is older and it is kept in a museum in Leiden – Netherlands. I’d like to see it one day.

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This is a replica of the queen’s crown. It’s beautifully carved, amazing detail and it looks very heavy LOL. Makes me wonder what kind of technology they used back then to produce such original piece!

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This is the traditional woven textile of Southern Sulawesi. From left to right. Makassar, Toraja and Bugis. The Toraja one has put their traditional house as a pattern.

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This is the traditional wedding ceremony decoration where they put the newly-weds as queen and king of the day. In front of it they lay food and cover it with the hat like red cups. It’s not actually a cup, it’s made from textile. The food is brought by the groom as one of the gift for the bride. Looks like a lot of dishes huh! Mostly it’s snacks. On the sides you can see textiles, and those are the traditional textile that the groom wears at the wedding. Very typical Indonesian weddings. The more the merrier!

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Out of the museum, there is also an artist! His name is Zainal Beta and he is a clay painter and has been doing it since the 70’s. What is a clay painter? Well, literally he paints with clay! You should see his work, even I’m amazed. He can paint in just 2 minutes! As I take a look from one painting to the other, he has put different colors of paint (I mean clay). I asked him how that’s possible. He said that each clay from each region has their own color. So he has to hunt clay from different places to get different colors for his work. His work is also published at the Losari beach art exhibition place. Look at the self portrait of him and yep it’s made from clay! Because I loved it so much, I got myself one of his amazing work!

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As I was walking with the guide, we came across this English club! Apparently, there is a place in Fort Rotterdam that is occasionally used for learning English. I got the chance to talk a little with the teacher and the students. I had a blast! They are very smart! About the teacher, or I’d say ‘Your Majesty’! I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet one of the last descendent of Gowa and Makassar’s royal! He is the grandson of the last Gowa’s King and the grandson of the last Makassar’s king! Not just 1 but 2 or even 3 crowns if I’m not mistaken. He told me his real name. Probably because he is a royal descendant his name is incredibly long, I can’t even recall it. It has I think 10-20 names. I was like stunned but then he said ‘Just call me Daeng Lala’. That’s a relieve LOL! He is an English teacher and he can do a New Castle (I think) accent and he also owns a certificate for it.

As a ¼ Bugis (my Datuk (grandpa) is a Bugis) I find it fascinating to learn about the heritage that I partly came from! And I am so happy to be able to come to this part of Indonesia. Learnt the history, met the king, what a day! I had a blast! To close the day I got to try the original Makassar’s dish: Fish!