Muslim-friendly tourism (MFT) is a very niche sector, albeit one that is continuously growing. Whether for work or purely leisure, increasing numbers of Muslim travellers are moving about, visiting all sorts of destinations around the world and spending money on unique travelling experiences. While modern-day Muslim tourists are not at all shy on splurging, not all tourist destinations cater to them.
As industry players across the globe come to a realisation that this special brand of tourism is becoming increasingly vital, more countries are jumping on the Muslim-friendly tourism bandwagon to tap on this lucrative sector.
A leader in MFT, Malaysia is an idyllic destination for Muslim travellers seeking everything from nature and adventure to food and shopping, among many other things. Facilities and conveniences such as prayer facilities in public spaces, Halal-certified eateries, and hotels with ‘kiblat’ direction and prayer mats, as well as tours catering to the needs of Muslim travellers are winning factors that put Malaysia at the top of the global Muslim-friendly tourism map. In fact, Singapore-based Muslim travel consultancy, CrescentRating ranked Malaysia above other bigger countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey for MFT.
Kudos to the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), Malaysia’s foremost authority in Muslim-friendly tourism under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), for its relentless effort in developing Malaysia’s Islamic tourism sector and making sure the country remains world number one in Muslim-friendly tourism.
Further information on ITC at https://itc.gov.my/.
Niching in Muslim-friendly tourism
ITC recognises the role of journalists as part of its effort to continuously develop the local Muslim-friendly tourism sector. Thus, ITC recently organised its Islamic Tourism Writers Workshop (ITWW) themed ‘Stories of Sustainability’ in Kuala Lumpur, of which BorneoTalk was privileged to have been invited to take part.
Participants representing both traditional and digital media, as well as two university students took part in the workshop held at Tamu Hotel & Suites at Kampong Bharu in Kuala Lumpur. The hotel itself is an ITC recognised hotel for being one of the top-rated Muslim-friendly hotels in Kuala Lumpur.
This initiative by ITC aims to introduce Islamic Tourism as well as Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality (MFTH) in Malaysia and their benefits to participating journalists through talks by specially invited speakers, thus creating writers who specialise in this niche subject.
Apart from a brief introduction of ITC and Islamic tourism/MFT, Day 1 of the programme also included a workshop on ‘Developing a Niche in Islamic Tourism Writing’ by invited speaker Putri Zanina Megat Zainuddin, Freelance Editor and Writer/Former Editor, Travel Desk, Life & Times, New Straits Time later in the evening.
Speaker Putri Zanina Megat Zainuddin giving a talk on Developing a Niche in Islamic Tourism Writing.
ITWW was experiential in nature as well. For one, the ‘Coffee, Tourism and Sustainability’ workshop presented by Kopi O’ Suam saw participants tasting, smelling, and drinking coffee in addition to learning about the history of coffee and its significance in Islamic culture. The workshop also taught participants the basics of identifying good coffee beans before buying them and looked at sustainable practices in Malaysian coffee culture. It was an eye-opening experience, quite literally.
Founder of Kopi O Suam, Hazim Baharin explains to workshop participants on how to identify good coffee during a coffee tasting workshop at Tamu Hotel & Suites in Kuala Lumpur.
Visiting the world’s second largest Quran production facility
One of the highlights of ITWW was a visit to the second largest Quran production facility in the world after the King Fahd Complex in Madinah, namely Nasyrul Quran, located at Precinct 14 in Putrajaya. Here, visitors can learn more about the processes of producing Quran, including the copying of verses by a team of calligraphers (10 local calligraphers and one each from Egypt and India), decorating the pages with special structural and floral motifs, hand-colouring and applying gold leaf on the motifs among many things.
Nasyrul Quran in Putrajaya is the second largest Quran production facility in the world.
Visitors to Nasyrul Quran can view the printing process from a viewing gallery on the first floor. However, we were privileged to have been given access into the printing plant for an extremely rare chance to view the printing processes up-close. It just so happened also that our visit coincided with the commencement of printing after all the necessary processes of Mushaf production had been completed.
The Nasyrul Quran production plant from the visitor’s viewing gallery.
At this juncture, we were also graced by the presence of ITC’s Director General, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hasan, who did the honour of symbolically initiating the printing of the Quran in a simple ceremony at the printing plant.
ITC’s Director General, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hasan gets ready to symbolically launch the printing of Quran at Nasyrul Quran in Putrajaya.
Seventy percent of the one million copies of Quran printed at the centre are distributed domestically while the rest are contributed to other nations around the world that need them.
Nasyrul Quran is one of the must-visit destinations for Muslim tourists. The complex features exhibition galleries, meeting and event spaces, skills training spaces, surau, and a café as well as a shop where visitors can purchase Quran and other Islamic publications as well as other products. Here, visitors can also purchase Quran as endowment for the needy.
More information available at https://www.nasyrulquran.com/.
Heritage, nature, relaxation
The following day, we made our way to Janda Baik, a village in Bentong, Pahang. Our first stop was Sentosa Janda Baik in Kampung Sum-Sum, located 39.5 km away from our hotel in KL. The journey was a comfortable 41-minute ride or so via Lebuhraya Kuala Lumpur – Gua Musang/E8, and the transition from an all-concrete environment into a green surrounding was a welcome sight.
The oldest at Sentosa Janda Baik, at over 100 years old.
We felt a sense of serenity and relaxation upon arrival at Sentosa Janda Baik, right from the moment we stepped out of our van. We were welcomed on site by the estate’s passionate and friendly owner and taken on a tour of the gorgeous four-acre site which was originally a paddy field.
In the 1960’s, philanthropists, art collectors, travellers, film makers, visionaries, and landscape artists Kamarul and Frances bought the site and transformed into a lush garden with three art galleries. Today, the estate boasts six beautiful houses displaying the family’s own collection of artwork and artefacts. Two of those houses are at least 100 years old. They were carefully dismantled and brought to the property from Kerdau, Pahang and Kota Baharu, Kelantan, and were reconstructed according to Malay custom or ‘adat’.
For Muslim tourists, a highlight of their visit there would be the Islamic Gallery, where they could admire very rare Islamic artefacts such as very intricately carved tables and old doors and ornamental pieces that would inspire awe.
Participants exploring inside the Islamic Gallery at Sentosa Janda Baik.
This ancient door is one of the highlights inside the Islamic Gallery.
This ornately decorated window looks out to a lush landscape surrounding the Islamic Gallery at Sentosa Janda Baik.
The surrounding landscape is haven for Instagrammers and content creators, and comes complete with fishpond, a stream running through the property, exotic flora, and even a small flock of guinea fowls.
For those who wish to experience more of Sentosa Janda Baik, a beautiful homestay is available too. The estate is also available for private functions and offers various packages for those interested. More information is available at https://sentosajandabaik.com/.
To be continued…