With a Muslim community of 300,000 people, the former British colony has the amenities for Muslim travellers in place, writes Hanna Hussein
KNOWN as one of the world’s most densely populated city, Hong Kong is a melting pot of culture even though 93 per cent of its 7.4 million population are ethnic Chinese.
Little did I know that there’s a strong Mus-lim community of 300,000 people. And one third of them are locals.
There are more than five mosques in Hong Kong and a huge number of halal restaurants, which undoubtedly make Hong Kong a Muslim-friendly destination.
Islam was introduced in Hong Kong during the British colony in the early 19th century. The earliest Muslim settlers were soldiers from India brought in by the British.
Later after Hong Kong developed into an important harbour, more and more Muslim immigrants came in. The British government respected the rights of Muslim communities and allocated land for mosques.
This was when the autonomous territory got its first mosque — Jamia Mosque in 1849. The small mosque, built at the Mid-Level of the famous Shelley Street in Central Hong Kong, also known as the ladder street where you can go on the world’s longest escalators, was expanded in 1915. The rectangular light green mosque features many elements of Islamic architecture including arched main entrance and Arabic-style arched windows on all sides.
It’s a very humble mosque and is protected under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordi-nance by the Government of Hong Kong.
Muslim travellers will find it convenient as it is strategically located near Old Town Cen-tral where one can explore the hidden gems of Street Arts and do a little shopping after.
At Nathan Road in Kowloon stands the city’s second mosque and the largest. Kow-loon Mosque and Islamic Centre, built in 1896, is a stunning white mosque featuring four 11m high minarets which mark the cor-ners of the upper terrace and extensive use of white marble on both the paving and facade.
It holds three prayer halls and a commu-nity hall, madrasah school and a library. The main prayer hall on the first floor is spacious and can accommodate up to 1,000 people. The women’s prayer hall on the upper floor surrounded by a terrace has a smaller space.
According to Saeed Uddin, Honorary Secretary of the Incorporated Trustee of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, the mosque is able to accommodate 3,500 people at a time and it’s usually full especially during Friday prayers.
In Ramadan, he says more than 2,000 Muslims come for the breaking of fast and the terawikh prayer — a special prayer only performed in the holy month, while up to 5,000 people attend the Eid’ Fitri prayer.
The mosque also frequently holds pro-grammes and classes on the teaching of Islam, the Quran as well as Arabic language. An intermediate course on Islam for non Muslims is also held regularly.
In 2005, the mosque went through a reno-vation project to add facilities including the management and imam’s office as well as a big kitchen.
EAT AND PRAY
Hungry? Head to Wan Chai for the city’s third mosque — Ammar Mosque and Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre.
The mosque was first located on Seymore street. It was just a small building built adja-cent to a Muslim cemetery and primarily used for funeral prayers. However, as the Muslim population increased, the mosque then opened for daily prayers.
But after World War II, Ammar mosque was moved to Oi Kwan Road. It later under-went a number of renovations and today it is an eight-storey complex with multi-purpose facilities, such as ablution halls for men and women on the first floor, male prayer hall on the second floor and female prayer hall on the third floor.
Located at the fifth floor is the Islamic Centre Canteen which serves Guangdong-style cuisine including assorted yummy halal dim sum and Chinese food. There are also a Chinese restaurant, bakery, medical ser-vices, classrooms, library, offices for imam and Quran teachers as well as conference and seminar rooms.
One weekends, the mosque holds Islamic workshops as well as Quran classes for con-verts. It also occasionally hosts tour visits by school and university students.
I meet with Sharifa Leung, a local Chinese born-Muslim who is also the treasurer of the Hong Kong Islamic Youth Association at Ammar Mosque, for a sharing session.
“There aren’t many challenges living in Hong Kong as a Muslim except that there are very few mosques and less knowledge about Muslim food requirements,” she says.
She aims to introduce a basic understanding Muslim life to the non-Muslims to help the country better provide Muslim-friendly facilities not only for the Muslim community in Hong Kong but also Muslim tourists.
“Life during Ramadan in Hong Kong is like usual except for fasting. We don’t get special treatment but that is alright, but it’ll be great to have the understanding of non-Muslims,” she says, adding that local Muslim families like to break fast together at home.
UP TO THE SKY
Hong Kong’s tourism players have also made themselves Muslim-friendly attractions. One of them is the Sky 100, the observatory deck of the city’s tallest building — the international Commerce Centre.
Muslim travellers will be delighted to find a spacious and clean prayer room located on the same floor, while at its restaurant, Cafe 100 at the deck, offers vegetarian options.
Built and completed in 2010, the 108-storey skyscrapper with the height of 484m is located in West Kowloon and it boasts nota-ble amenities including The Ritz Carlton and Sky100. To go on the Sky 100, it costsHK$188 (RM94) for an adult and HK$128 for a child and senior citizen. However, you’ll get a discount if the purchase is online.
It is an interesting tour as you will be invit-ed into an elevator that can whisk you up 100 floors in 60 seconds. Once on the observation deck, one is free to roam and enjoy the incred-ible 360-view of Hong Kong city and Victoria Harbour.
There is also a state-of-the-art interactive exhibition with a fascinating multimedia tour of Hong Kong history and culture.
IN HONG KONG
SEE HONG KONG IN DIFFERENT LIGHTS:
GO ON A DING DING
Hop aboard on a 1920s-style tram (also known as Ding Ding because of the bell sounds) and embark on a fascinating sightseeing tour through Hong Kong. Encounter bustling streets, ultra-modern cityscapes and attractions on the go.
The tramway is a living, evolving connection between Hong Kong’s colourful history and modern culture.
Another way to see the city from a bird’s eye view is to go on a 60m-high observation wheel. It is a 20-minute ride that allows unobstructed views of stunning Victoria Harbour.
Take the Star Ferry and go to Har-bour City. A great shopping place and another place to get a spectacular view of the harbour from the new 270-degree deck on the rooftop of the Ocean Terminal Deck.
Psst.. don’t miss the Symphony of Light show happening nightly at 8pm where iconic buildings are a canvas for sensational lighting and colourful lasers art symphony.
Pictures by NSTP/NUR ADIBAH AHMAD IZAM