Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Jakarta, July 22, 2015 (Antara) - Surabaya, East Java's capital and the second-largest city of Indonesia, offers a blend of both religious and historical tourism attractions, as the metropolitan city was an important Dutch Indies port town since the 16th century.
        Surabaya has a large modern port of Tanjuk Perak and a traditional harbor of Kali Mas, which are both located in North Surabaya. As a result, the city has a multiethnic population, with Javanese as the majority and others including people of Madurese, Chinese, Arab, and Indian descents.
   Its old city area is located in North Surabaya, specifically around the Red Bridge (Jembatan Merah), where one can find several of the best historical buildings include structures with colonial Dutch architecture and Chinese temples.
        The most striking landmark in Surabaya's old city area is the 15th-century Ampel Mosque (Mesjid Ampel), which stands within the vibrant Arab quarter.

        The Grand Mosque of Sunan Ampel was built by Sunan Ampel, one of the Wali Songo (Nine Muslim Saints) in the 15th century, and has become one of Surabaya's main religious tourism destinations.      
    Born in 1401 in Champa, Cambodia, Sunan Ampel's real name was Mohammad Ali Rahmatullah and was a descendant of Ibrahim Asmarakandi, a prince of Champa, who lived and stayed in the town of Tuban, in East Java.
        Sunan Ampel spent his entire life in the Ampel Mosque until his death in 1481. His tomb is located on the right side of the mosque.
         The Sunan Ampel Grand Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Indonesia and has been built using a combination of Javanese and Arabic architecture and strong teak wood.
        In those early days, Islamic saints and missionaries (wali) as well as scholars (ulemas) had gathered from around Java to discuss the teachings and to spread Islam.    
   The Surabaya authorities have named the mosque, which has 16 big pillars and 48 doors, as a cultural heritage and religious tourism destination.
        Surrounding the mosque is Surabaya's Arab town where most of the inhabitants are of Arabic descent from Yemen, and some Chinese who have lived and traded there for hundreds of years.
        The hustle and bustle at Arab town's Gubah Market feels akin to the old traditional market known by Indonesian pilgrims as "pasar seng" located in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia in the past. The Saudi authorities have closed down the old market.
        The Gubah Market is open until late night and offers a variety of Muslim clothing, traditional musical instruments, accessories, CDs, books, and food.
        One of the attractions of Ampel is an array of Middle Eastern culinary specialties such as kebuli rice, maryam bread, grilled lamb, curry, kebab, and biryani rice.
   The foreign tourists visiting the mosque come from China, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Brunei Darussalam, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, and Korea.
       During the fasting month of Ramadan, the Sunan Ampel mosque is the most favored site for people from across the country to come and offer prayers. They also pay homage to Sunan Ampel's tomb.
       Some 12 thousand people visited the Sunan Ampel Mosque and tomb every day during the recent Ramadan.
       "Since the start of Ramadan, the tomb area and mosque were always crowded with pilgrims," Zeid Muhammad, the manager of the Sunan Ampel Grand Mosque Foundation, stated in Surabaya in early July of 2015.
       The number increased fourfold as compared to that noted during non-Ramadan days, according to Muhammad.
       "During regular, or non-Ramadan days, the number of pilgrims is around 3 thousand per day, mostly from outside Surabaya," Zeid revealed.
       Various religious activities such as routine Quran reciting and I'tikaf (seclusion in the Mosque) during the last 10 days of Ramadan are organized during Ramadan at the 14th-century mosque.
        The mosque also offers free Iftar, or dinner to break the fast, every day to Muslim visitors observing fast.
        Marfudin, a visitor from Garut, West Java, stated that every Ramadan, he organizes a pilgrimage to the tombs of Wali Songo to offer prayers and to make purchases for Eid al-Fitr, or locally known as Idul Fitri Muslim festivity.
        Furthermore, as many as 17 art communities enlivened the Ramadan Cultural Festival at Bogowonto Square in Surabaya this year.
        "The festival was aimed at introducing the younger generations to the culture bequeathed by their ancestors," Spokesman for the Surabaya Art and Culture Community Siswandi stated on July 11, 2015.
        During the festival, the art communities presented a variety of art and cultural shows, including poetry, band music, and reog (masked dance) performances. The patrol music contest was one of the highlights of the festival.
        "We need to emphasize on this, so that the younger generations do not forget their culture," he stated.
       The communities participating in the festival came not only from Surabaya but also from the rest of East Java. "However, most of them were from Surabaya," Siswandi pointed out.
         "The public's enthusiasm to watch the festival this time is extraordinary. It is reflected by the presence of a large number of people watching the art and cultural shows," he remarked.
        The population of Surabaya city is more than three million people, and alike other big cities, it faces traffic congestion problems. Therefore, the Surabaya authorities plan to develop alternative roads.
 22-07-2015 17:15:37

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