Prayer time

Ramadan and Idul Fitri is always an interesting time to be in a country with a predominantly Muslim population. For one thing, the focus on food goes up tenfold, with the high point of the day being buka puasa, the breaking of the fast. People take the opportunity to connect with all their friends and family and almost each evening ends up in a big party. Closer to the end of the month is the golden week in Jakarta – the mudik – exodus of people from Jakarta to their hometowns – causing all kinds of angst for those traveling, and sheer bliss for the ones staying behind, in terms of traffic. The two weeks in the year when you have to do your own housework brings its own brand of anxiety, and checking in to local hotels is a perfectly acceptable practice for many.

Devout I am not, but a visit to the Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan seems to have become a regular feature for me. The Masjid Istiqlal is the largest in Southeast Asia; for the second year running, I have joined the hordes to the big mosque early, early morning, just to soak in the atmosphere and try to make a few good photos.

What always impresses me about the mosque, and Indonesia in general, is how chilled out the people are. Everyone is relaxed, happy, friendly, and ever-willing to pose for a photo. I feel bad thinking about the terror strikes across the world, a number of them in quick succession in the last week, but hanging out with Indonesians brings a feeling of calm and good cheer.

The prayer itself is short, and if you’re like me, photo-hunting, it’s best to strategise where you want to spend your time in that 15-minute window of opportunity. The grand hall and the 4-5 tiers are impressive, but the outdoors are interesting too. Some of the fashions are extraordinary, as people always make an effort to dress up for the occasion. Very important for families to be completely colour-coordinated too! Another photographer tip: there’s a lot of photos to be had of people bowing their heads respectfully. Just try to compose the shot minus the smartphone that they’re poring over :-D.

There’s also the effort it takes to wake up super-early, and try to arrive at the mosque well before daybreak, to get in before the large crowds. It’s quite an adventure.

I’ve combined my photos from this year and last:

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri! Mohon maaf lahir dan batin!!

P.S. Cleaning the house is overrated. I’ve instructed Mia, the cat, not to shed, and we’re managing to co-exist with minimal physical exertion, while Rofa gets her well-deserved break.


Shooting Religiously

I lost my photography mojo on the last walk, amid all the confusion of not being allowed inside the train station to take pictures to abruptly changing the venue to the Jakarta Cathedral via Masjid Istiqlal. Uju and I had toured the masjid when she was here, but I recall not being too enthused about photography then either. Maybe stay away from the camera for a while, huh? But that is not to be. Have camera, will shoot, have internet, will blog!

This Masjid Istiqlal has a relatively young but interesting history – it was built to commemorate Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, following traditional Javanese norms that it should be in close proximity to the city center (the Merdeka Square in Jakarta), and the site was chosen by President Soekarno right across the cathedral to represent religious tolerance of the then-new nation. There are a whole lot of other symbolic elements in the building that you can read about on the link.

Masjid Istiqlal

It’s a quiet place at non-prayer times, and I think it might be interesting to visit during Ramadhan.

Back on track, we walked from Stasiun Gambir, through the compound of the mosque, across to the Jakarta Cathedral.

I love church interiors, and this one had a museum too.

Hope the next photowalk brings some more inspiration!