Where We Be
Islamic Arts Museum -- Kuala Lumpur
During our last day in Kuala Lumpur we decided
to check out a few of the key Islamic sites in
this primarily Muslim country. Our first stop was
the National Mosque of Malaysia, where we put
on purple robes so we could visit inside. Then
we headed to the nearby Islamic Arts Museum
(RM 12 pp, $3), where we spent a good hour or
two exploring. This is the #2 attraction in KL per
Trip Advisor, which inspired us to check it out.

From the start we enjoyed seeing the models
of all the mosques from around the world. The
museum is chock-full of high-quality Islamic art:
illuminated manuscripts, curved scimitars,
bejeweled daggers, inlaid furniture, precious
jewelry, and religious artifacts. The museum
itself is elegant with its domed ceilings and
modernist architecture.

By the time we finished up here,  we felt like
we'd seen Kuala Lumpur pretty well in just a
few sightseeing days.
This is the largest museum of Islamic arts in Southeast Asia. There are over
7,000 Islamic artifacts here, and the museum itself is architecturally beautiful.
We liked the pairing of ancient and modern -- crisp
modernist architecture with traditional Islamic motifs
The museum has 12 main galleries spread over four floors.
Don't forget to look up at the gorgeous domed ceilings.
This was our favorite domed ceiling
Our favorite exhibit was the models of all the famous mosques from around the world. The signs were
excellent, so in one quick go you could see all the different styles of mosques from far-flung countries.
A reflecting pool stands
before the minaret
The National Mosque was built in 1965 in a boldly modern style. One of its most
distinctive features is the blue-green tiled roof in the shape of a 16-pointed star.
Another superb exhibit was the illuminated manuscripts. We couldn't read
a word, of course, but the beauty and attention to detail spoke for itself.
Inside all is open and airy, with a capacity for 15,000 people. The National Mosque
(or Masjid Negara in Malay) offers a contemporary take on traditional Islamic designs.
From elegant jewelry to jewelled daggers, this is a lovely collection -- lovingly displayed
Most Malaysian women wear a hijab or scarf over their heads, even when swimming -- something we
hadn't known to expect when we first arrived -- but Westerners needn't follow suit except in mosques
Nor is the museum so big as to be intimidating --
you can wander through all of it in an hour or two
You don't have to be Muslim to enjoy the exquisite artifacts on display here
The eight-sided star is a traditional Islamic design motif we've seen everywhere from Spain to Egypt to Malaysia.
Known as the Rub el Hizb, it consists of two overlapping squares. Many mosques are built on this octagonal design.
The Muzium Kesenian Islam is near both KL Bird Park and the National Mosque. It's a manageable walk from the
nearest metro station (Pasar Seni or Kuala Lumpur). Alternatively, a simple Uber or taxi ride will get you there in no time.
National Mosque of Malaysia
The displays are well spaced, well lit, and well signed in English -- what more could you ask?
Islamic Arts Museum
The minaret at the National Mosque rises 240 feet
(73 m) high, well above the surrounding palm trees
Purple hooded robes seem to be de rigueur
if you want to visit inside a mosque in Malaysia
The national flag of Malaysia features a
crescent moon and star, symbols of Islam
The only numerals on this clock that
look the same are the 1, 9, and 11