Landmarks of Jakarta

The Grand Mosque : Masjid Istiqlal

The Grand Mosque: Istiqlal Mosque from the observation deck of the National Monument
The Grand Mosque: Istiqlal Mosque from the observation deck of the National Monument

This is the landmark that everyone should not miss during their visit in Indonesia’s capital city.

Well, I have some guests who don’t mind skipping the National Monument but still want to go to the Grand Mosque. The thing is, this is not just a mosque where moslems pray but inside, there’s an Islamic elementary school (Madrasah Ibtidaiyah), junior high school (Tsanawiyah), and senior high school (High School), so this place is never empty. But don’t worry, you will be guided by the mosque’s official to go around.

Inside Istiqlal Mosque
Inside Istiqlal Mosque

Take off your shoes and sandals before going in to the mosque, take them with you because there will be a place where you can keep your footwear in a guest room. If you’re not moslem you will be taken to the second floor directly (because the first floor is only for praying) where you can see the main praying hall, the dome, also the time schedule for praying. You will notice that the walls and floors are made from marbles. At the beginning, president Soekarno wanted the marbles to be imported from Italy, but to cut cost and support the local marbles industry, all the marbles are made in Tulungagung (East Java), unlike the National Monument (all the marbles are imported from Italy).

The mosque was built in 1961 and opened for public in 1978. This is the biggest mosque in South East Asia and claimed to be the fourth biggest in the world, but when I did a little research (read: google), I found out here that it is the fifth with the capacity around 120.000 worshippers. The architect is actually a Christian and located near Jakarta’s Cathedral (Jakarta’s first Catholic church) and Immanuel Church (Jakarta’s old church). It was President Soekarno idea to build the Grand Mosque in the location because he wanted the world to witness Indonesian people living in harmony despite the difference of their beliefs.

Dome Istiqlal
Dome of Istiqlal with diameter 45 m (taken from the year of Indonesia independence 1945).

During Friday prayer and other holy days for moslems (when the mosque is packed), the Cathedral would open their parking spaces for moslems and the other way around. I experienced myself how the mosque opened the gate during masses in the Cathedral.

I have several responses from my guests after their visit to the Grand Mosque. “Magnificent building” and “I have the same impact like visiting the Pantheon on Rome” are 2 of the responses. So, do visit this place when you’re in town.

One thing that you must not miss during your visit to the mosque is seeing huge “Beduk”, a traditional kind of drum that was used to call people for praying.

Good Guide Tips to visit Istiqlal Mosque :
1. Prepare small money (2.000, 5.000, 10.000, 20.000). For what? Keep reading. 2. You have to take off your shoes/sandals entering the mosque, and there are a lot of men, women, children offering plastic bag for your shoes just right outside the mosque, if you want you can buy the plastic bag for IDR2.000. Better to have exact amount of money.
3. If you don’t want to buy the plastic bag, you can just carry them inside.
4. Go to Guest Room to meet your local guide.
5. Don’t worry to wear shorts, mini skirts, tank tops or anything else, they have a robe to cover your body to go inside the mosque.
6. When the tour is done, the guide MOST LIKELY will ask for money, that’s when you give him the IDR10.000 – 20.000 (depends on how many persons with you).
7. Wear your footwear outside the mosque.
8. You will find a lot of kids and disabled men/women around the mosque, donate your money wisely.


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