Thursday, July 8
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I paid a very pleasurable visit to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, a super-buttery modern establishment that opened in 1998--no homely, dusty old displays here! There's no doubt in my mind that Islamic art is among the most gorgeous, and this venue boasts a huge collection of it, not only from the Middle East, but also China, India and Southeast Asia. It also stretches several centuries into the past.
The first floor features an architecture section with scale models, photos and write-ups of the world's greatest mosques. There's also a Qur'an manuscript gallery full of insanely detailed handmade books, each page covered with gorgeous, glimmering gold. A section on India is highlighted by a nice collection of Mughal jewelry and weapons, plus attractive, colorful clothing and other textiles from Malaysia and China.
Up on the second floor, several whole sections take an in-depth look at arms and armor, featuring guns, swords, helmets and the like; as well as jewelry and more textiles. Woodwork is touched upon in the form of mosque furniture and decorations; and metalwork is represented by bowls, coins and personal adornment. Last but not least is a large collection of ceramic bowls.
Next, I squeezed into a jam-packed subway to make the obligatory pilgrimage to the Petronas Towers. These gigantic, twin silver spires shot forth into Kuala Lumpur's skyline in 1998, and remained the tallest skyscrapers in the world until 2004, when Tapei 101 in Taiwan stole their thunder. Serving as the headquarters for the Petronas oil empire, they're still the pride and joy of Kuala Lumpur, and, with their Islamic design elements, the Muslim world, too. No wonder the things are plastered on a majority of the postcards and t-shirts sold here. Wide promenades with fountains adorn both sides of the towers, where shiploads of tourists pose for photos. If you ever find yourself in Kuala Lumpur, you can't help but stop by the Petronas Towers and do the same.