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Published: August 27th 2008
We flew into Kuala Lumpur and headed for China town at the silly o'clock dark morning time. Tired drunks clutched warm beer, torpid travellers slurping noodle soup saying nothing to each other. Listless hookers passed me by giving me the once over. Luckily we had pre-booked a room at a well known hostel, unluckily the room had already been taken by another 'Claire Hall' some 8 hours earlier and the night security guy thought it best not to wake them up at this ungodly time, yes, we must let them sleep the poor mites! A dubious looking place opposite had its lights on, the tariff explained that 15 minutes would cost 6 RM (£1), one hour was 12 RM (£2) every additional 15 minutes thereafter would cost 3 RM and a room for one whole night was only 35 RM. Stu thought this was a bargain night sleep yet was baffled by this 15 minutes bit, as I lead him away I explained this was a knocking shop.
It was 04.35 when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur city centre, the spirit of travelling was fast draining away as I became listless. We found another hostel, the man on
Delightful Muslim kids
At school inside the National Mosque
the desk was snoring in front of the flickering TV, I coughed, he threw me a key, I caught it. The room came with shared bathroom that was 0.34 miles along the dimly lit hall where a wall rope was needed as guidance. The toilet had the biggest buoyant message of doom crammed inside its bowl, the same toilet cubical doubled up as one main shower for that floor and that one floor had enough rooms to house the entire Russian Olympic team. Our sleep space was smaller than a Monopoly board; it had no windows or breathable oxygen, just a flicker of strip lighting that made everything look green. There was a mattress on the floor; the AC blew freezing degrees, as I dripped in night sweat this later practical part of the deal was of greater immediate importance. Upon closer inspection of the mattress, I noticed just below the lumpy winnie the poo pillow were long thick suspiciously Arab looking black hairs, I caste my half blind crime scene investigating eyes along the cheap threads and with the aid of a normal mag-lite I noticed somewhere around pelvic levels were some smaller blacker curlier hairs. This is when
a hardened stomach to international body gore, tweezers, blanket stolen from flight earlier, mini comfort pillow.
I slept for 11 minutes and 20 seconds all night; we could have got some change from £1 if we had slept across the road in the knocking shop! This room was pitch black I could see nothing but I could hear scuttling inside the room, as soon as I heard human scuttling outside the room I got up and searched for another cleaner lighter more liveable hostel.
We stayed in a great hostel called The Backpackers Inn. It came with windows and free Wifi, satisfying breakfasts, plenty of 'interesting' traveller people and a good homely feeling. We managed to sight see by jumping on the hop on hop off bus those circles around all the tourist spots of the city. I was apathetic as I watched the changing of the guards, the orchid park, I slipped in to a mild brain dead heat coma, viola, a wedding party sat there before me, looking just married and a bit lost on a random bench, I took their picture, they were happy I took their picture.
Jumping on the next tour bus which drove us to some cultural arts centre, which we lazily viewed it through the windows of the bus, a small drive up the road we passed a mediocre Malaysian Eye (like the London Eye, but nothing like London Eye in big wheel size) we didn't bother to get off the bus for that either as it was pissing down with rain. KL Twin Towers suddenly was nothing special compared to the mega buildings in Shanghai, I felt rather let down, over all the day had that done it before, seen similar, yawn, its too rainy, yawn, too hot, tired, can't be bothered, hungry. Our big old tour bus suddenly swerved and blew a tire, it made a huge bang, there was a chorus of 'Thank God, Christ, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha and so on by many, we transferred on to another bus, this I may add was the most exciting part of the week for me. Suddenly I found myself thinking of Tesco food stuff, white cold snow, fire lit cottages in Scotland.
We stopped at the National Mosque; here in Mini Islam Malaysia Wiki states there are is a 99.9%
population of Muslims. Here in the city I have seen many Saudi Muslim women covered from head to foot in the Hijab vale, I understand that the majority of Muslim women don't wear this but I thought I should maybe investigate as to date I find this custom Byzantine and have so far felt nothing on any akin level for this religion, compared to my strong feelings and understandings towards spiritualism, Hinduism, Buddhism. The rules of this cities National Mosque states that women were allowed in, but plunging neck lines were not allowed to hang out, knee to calf length hems were not acceptable, knee to hip hems is punishable by a permanent ban on retail shopping unaided by a responsible adult. Free flowing hair styles were covered up, along with entire female body contours, all hidden. To visit inside this Mosque of not so free Islamic worship, I was asked to conform and dress in an unflattering full length gown, this gown covered my female head and all hair and entire female body, so when the wind blew the gown made me look like one massive purple marquee inclusive of wedding party jumping around inside to Rick Astley's 'Never
gonna give you up'.
Once inside the mosque and stripped of all western comfort thoughts and outer identity, I picked up my 24 coloured beginners leaflets on 'how to be a proper Muslim'. I’m not sure who devised these leaflets they are meant to be taken from the Koran also spelt Qur'an and original texts called the Hadith, I found them most entertaining. I started with How does a lady from Alabama became a Muslim? Easy, her Muslim husband had asked her to just investigate Islam after she had spent years trying to convert him to Christianity. She says and I quote “The turning point for me was that in Islam his money is our money, but my money is my money”. I walked around the spacious marble mosque, completely hidden under my purple marquee.
Leaflet 23 states 'The very same headscarf revered as a sign of 'holiness' when worn by Catholic nuns, is reviled as a sign of 'oppression' when worn by Muslim Women' These days isn't being a nun a limited and rare old century career choice, it’s a specialised and insular way of devoting your one life to God, not a human husband?
Pockets of Muslim women all over the world are told from young to wear these things like their mothers aunts, sisters and grans do that is not what I call personal choice. In Leaflet 21 Sex in Islam it claims the Qur'an describes monastic life as 'a human invention'. But in the same leaflet 23 it also says that 'The Muslim woman only seeks inner 'spiritual' beauty so by wearing her hijab/vale is an external expression of her inner commitment to lead a way of life that pleases Allah the most merciful'.
At the end of the day I was glad to get back into my special custom made Vietnamese rip off Sainsbury’s dress.
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