Butterflies and Islamic Art…a beautiful combination.
Another weekend out in Kuala Lumpur–and so much in this city to see!
Only a stone’s throw from the Bird Park (see earlier blog post) is the colourful and beautifully landscaped Butterfly Park where over 6,000 butterflies of 120 species roam and flit about freely in a simulated natural rainforest environment. [Cynthia’s definition of rainforest: a place that is very warm and amazingly humid where you will wish you had worn less, brought more water and had a different hat.]
Of course, we didn’t get to the butterflies on the same day we did the Bird Park because, frankly, it’s just to warm to trot from place to place. Or I’m too old–or a combination of the two. After two or three hours out in the middle of the day, particularly if it’s sunny (as opposed to overcast) it really does get hot, particularly to those new to it (I am supposing, being new to it). I must say that’s changed a good bit in the near-three weeks I’ve been here but it’s been a gradual process, to say the least, when it comes to being outside in the midday sun for very long.
Pacing is the name of the game here, in my opinion. I have surmised that this is the reason there are so many malls. People spend an hour or two or three in the out-of-doors and then duck inside to have a coffee, a tea or a browse or a meal around one of Kuala Lumpur’s many, many (and I do mean many) malls. They are amazing, really beyond believe. It is one of those “you’ve got to see it to believe it” circumstances in life.
>>To view my Zenfolio album of butterfly images, click here or click on the photo of Derek and the big butterfly above.
In the case of the butterfly visit, however, in order to cool off after our ‘rainforest experience’ we eschewed the normal mall visit and Derek suggested something far more interesting that he’d wanted to do in July but hadn’t got around to on his first visit either–the Islamic Arts Museum, located in the same vast park complex in the centre of Kuala Lumpur where the bird park and twenty other parks, monuments, museums and interesting things are.
We were in for a treat, too! In addition to the air conditioning and the normal collection that’s on display, we were fortunate to visit when the “Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals” was on display. Before I went there, I couldn’t honestly say I’d ever seen a 25-carat diamond, up close and personal (and through a secure glass case) but now I have.
So, anyway, we did the butterflies and then, as I began to melt like the witch in The Wizard of Oz (crying “Help me, help me…I’m melting, I’m melting…”) off we went to the nearby Islamic Musem of Art, which was absolutely incredible, very interesting–and amazingly cool, too. It really was the perfect follow-on to the mini rainforest the butterflies so happily flap around in.
This museum is huge. I’m not sure we saw it all, or anything close to it. It’s only been open since 1998 so is very new–and it’s the largest museum of Islamic art in Southeast Asia. I happen to enjoy Islamic Art so that’s ok with me but I seriously doubt we got anywhere close to covering the 30,000 square metres (that’s something well over 270,000 square feet, if I’ve done the math correctly). It’s a very classy and modern building and the galleries are spacious and never crowded, from what we saw–probably because it is so large.
The guidebook says there are more than seven thousand artefacts, as well as an exceptional library of Islamic-art books. I believe it. It seems endless. The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca. In fact, the models of many of the key mosques in the world are works of art themselves.
This museum puts the emphasis on Asia, with China and Southeast Asia especially well represented–as opposed to Persia and the Arabian peninsula, I believe–as well as the third component of Malaysia’s melting pot, India (Malay and Chinese being the first two).
Hence the museum’s delight in hosting the collection of the Mughals on display.Apparently, this is the most lavish display of historic jewellery ever seen in Malaysia. The Mughals were a folk particlarly adept at artistic sophistication and had loads of technical finesse, we learned. This was 16th to the 18th century craft, in a land naturally rich in gems and home to the most highly developed range of the jewelled arts of any nation on earth–so I daresay it should have been good (and it was).
Some of the most remarkable pieces in the collection belonged to a succession of Mughal emperors, while many other objects were the proud possessions of a variety of princely patrons. I agree with the guidebook, which talked about the ‘dazzling mastery of the Indian jewellery artists, whose materials typically were gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls.’
This collection was earlier at the Louvre and the British Museum, and this is its last stop before it goes back to the privte collections from whence it came.
While it didn’t occur to me on the day, as I write this a week later, I realise that on that Saturday we enjoyed some of the most beutiful gems that mother nature has to offer–AND some of the most incredible treasures that man has ever put together–all on the same day.
As I look at the albums of photos from the two visits, I realise what a day of incomparable beauty it really was. And, lesson learned, mix the outdoor with the indoor to enjoy (and survive) the best of both worlds.
>>To visit my Zenfolio album of images from the Islamic Museum, click the images above or click here.