Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Georgetown City's rich multicultural heritage
This is Penang Islamic Museum located at the corner of Acheen Street or Lebuh Aceh, This 19th century mansion was the residence of Syed Mohamad Al-attas, a wealthy merchant and community leader described by the Chinese as "Kepala Kongsi".
The minaret of the Malay mosque or Masjid Melayu founded by Tunku Syed Hussein Idid, a wealthy spice merchant and leader of the Muslim community and unofficial head of the Malay Town or Malay enclave. He was formerly Sultan of Aceh who abdicated in favour of his son, Tunku Syed Abdullah Idid.
The clock tower of Georgetown City. In the background is the 12-storey Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry building.
A fleet of trishaws at the Esplanade.
Dutch tourists on heritage tour by trishaws after a stop over at Fort Cornwallis.
On my trip to Penang last week-end, I witnessed something truly Malaysian that would disgraced young and foolish politician who continued to harp on racial issues to gain political mileage and popularity.
This particular Oxford educated politician can learnt a lesson or two from Penang's middle-aged trishaw men which I encountered at the Esplanade or Padang Kota Lama. The trishaw men, Chinese, Malays and Indians, not only work together but they help each other in times of need, irrespective of race or religion.
"Kita sama-sama cari makan, kawan. Mana ada gaduh. Itu orang politik bikin kacau saja," Ah Chye the trishaw rider told me in Malay. Literally he said "we work together to earn an honest living. That politician is a trouble maker."
His sentiment was shared by Ibrahim, a Malay trishaw rider. Ibrahim told me that politicians sometimes "lepas cakap" (talking without thinking) and most of them were only interested to "buat harta" or to "make money."
I was told by Ah Chye that they were hired by tourist guides to ferry tourists on a tour of Georgetown City's rich heritage, a new tourism package introduced by the state authorities and non-governmental organizations.
Hundreds of tourists both local and foreign, visit Penang's vast preservation of treasure in the city. It is the city's man-made heritage.
As the starting point of Penang's multicultural community, the inner city of Georgetown, Malaysia's oldest city, has many houses of worship, guild and clan houses, mosques, temples and other buildings which are Penang's 'open museum' of migration and cultural history.
The heritage tour covers the Colonial Quarter where Fort Cornwallis, the Esplanade, City Hall, Court House, St George's church, state museum, Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, and the Protestant cemetery are situated.
A short distance away are the historic port settlements or 'ethnic enclaves' - the Little India commercial area, the Kapitan Keling mosque, Goddess of Mercy temple, Mahamariamman Hindu temple, Armenian Street, the Malay Town of Acheen Street or Lebuh Aceh and the Malay mosque of Tunku Syed Hussein Idid, the Khoo Kongsi, the Islamic museum and Weld Quay.
Georgetown City has one of the largest collections of 19th and early 20th century buildings in South-east Asia. It is a living historic city.