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Home Malaysia Georgetown, Penang ⇒ Mosques & Temples

Georgetown: Asia’s Melting Pot

6Mosques & Temples

The Ethnic Malays are predominantly Muslim and naturally enough Georgetown has a number of mosques. One of the earliest built was the Kapitan Kling Mosque on Lebuh Pitt built by an Indian-Muslim in 1801 following an indo-Moorish architectural style. The Muezzin calls to prayer throughout the day are one of the characteristic background sounds of the city.

A quiet Georgetown street.
A quiet Georgetown street.

The Tamils on the other hand are mostly Hindu and they too have their own temples. The oldest in Penang is the Sri Mariamman Temple on Lebuh Queen dating back to 1833. The gopuram, or front tower, is intricately carved and decorated with a pantheon of Hindu deities and will be familair to anyone who has visited India.

In the early evening when everyone is out shopping, eating at roadside stalls or going to and from the various paces of worship, there is a wonderful mix of peoples to watch. The contrast between the races as to their dress is pronounced and adds colour and life to the evening.

A Row of Renovated Shophouses
A row of renovated shophouses.

The Malay women mostly wear the Hijab, that is they dress with Islamic propriety in headscarves and loose enveloping tunics, while the men wear loose white tunics and the black hats called songkoks. The Indian women on the other hand stand out in elegant, colourful saris while in stark contrast to these traditional styles, the young Chinese favour a more modern dress of stylish shorts and T-shirts.

It says a lot for Malaysia’s tolerance that these different groups can live side by side in such mutual understanding, a model for other mixed cultures around the world.

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