Jamek, or Jumaat means Friday in the Malay language. It is significant because prayers are held every Friday afternoon. Prayers on Friday afternoons are as important to Muslims as Saturdays are to Jews, and Sundays are to Christians. Masjid, as you may have guessed, means mosque.
There is a tourist counter on the left as soon as one enters the mosque compound. Make sure you are dressed well. For women, you are required to wear a robe, which you can get from the tourist centre. If you are denied entry, which is quite common late in the day or during prayer times, it’s ok. Just stand at the gate and peep in.
The Sultan of Selangor officially opened Masjid Jamek on the 23rd of December 1909. The Resident of Selangor, or Selangor’s British administrator at that time was HC Belfield. Both they, and other officials witnessed the ceremony that was held outside the Mosque.
The designer was A.B Hubback, a government architect who was intrigued by the Mogul architecture of India. This is the city’s oldest surviving mosque and it is constructed on the site of the first Malay cemetery. Masjid Jamek it is located right at where Klang River and Gombak River meet.
Masjid Jamek was built with inspiration from the Mogul mosques of North India. In fact, there are many similarities between this mosque and the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi if you have been there. The brick walls and the white arched supporting columns, or small pillars are similar. On the corners, you can see the cupolas and the minarets, or towers.
There are three giant domes on top of the prayer hall. The central dome stands at 21.3 metres or 70 feet high and is flanked by two lower domes. Domes in Islamic architecture often signify the vaults between heaven and the sky.
The prayer hall is usually empty and without furniture to allow for as many worshippers as possible in a single prayer session. On a typical Friday afternoon prayer, this place is packed.
The hall opens out onto a ‘sahn’ or courtyard, which has now been covered over to allow for even more space. You can recognize it with its white tent.
There are also two red and white striped minarets. They have small chatris or umbrella-shaped cupolas on top. There are a large number of small chatris at the top of the entrance and at the corners of the mosque.
Speakers are placed in the minarets and they are used broadcast the azan, or the Muslim call to prayer. You might even hear it during this tour.
Until the opening of the National Mosque in 1965, Masjid Jamek served as Kuala Lumpur’s principal mosque.