Thursday, August 24, 2006


FIRST ~ The Mission 110806

It's almost noon and I'm now on a mission. It's a Friday, and I want to find a mosque to do my Friday prayer. I'm told there's a mosque in Siem Reap, and thanks to a map, I roughly know where it is. So after a 20-min walk through the hot, dusty town, I am rewarded with a sign ...

Close-up, and I'm ecstatic, but I still have no clue how far it is and how the path is like.

Another 5 min through a dusty earth lane, I'm greeted by this gate. Nothing as grand as the ones in Angkor, but I sure am delighted!

The Malay Village 110806

The lane gets dustier ...

... and narrower, but it seems to pass by some nice homes. Must be a mess when it rains. No turning back now.

After a couple of junctions, the lane suddenly opens up into a village with some really dilapidated houses, open sewer and strewn rubbish. This is one impoverished neighbourhood. I've arrived at the Malay village of Kampung Stengmai, after walking for 35 min in the dust and the hot sun.

Kampung Stengmai 110806

A couple of pitiful-looking houses flanking a sturdy one.

Swamp and litter.

Amidst abject poverty, a beautiful wooden house stands. I think it belongs to a community leader, a judge or something.

The Masjid 110806

And this is the mosque I seek. A bit too early and the crowd is still thin.

"Masjid Neakmah"

Rear view. Looks like a fairly new mosque. I am told this is the only mosque in Siem Reap province, and I meet one guy and his son, who ride their bike for 30km just to get here for Friday prayer. Looking at the road conditions here, that's no easy feat.

The Madrasah 110806

Behind the mosque, there is a community school.

"Madrasah Qamaruddin Al-Islamiah, Kampung Stengmai, Siem Reap"
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A 3-year-old banner still flapping in the breeze. They must have cherished this event, a course on the Malay language organised by Malaysian and Cambodian parties.

The classroom is very basic, but no students around.

The Graveyard 110806

Next to the school, a small graveyard serves this far-flung Muslim Malay community of 100 families.

Simple tombstones to mark simple graves of simple folks.

Some adorned with Khmer script ...

... some with Roman script.

The Champa Malays 110806

These are Champa Malays, who came to Cambodia several centuries back from Annam, now in present-day Vietnam. Why do they speak Malay? How did they end up here? Is Pengkalan Chepa in Kelantan a Champa Malay settlement? Do Kelantanese originate from Champa Malays? Read THIS, THIS and THIS.

The ones I see look exactly like any Malay in Malaysia ...

... except they converse in Khmer.

Only a few elders can still speak Malay (with a distinct twang, and lack of vocabulary), and also Cham, their other mother-tongue.

The Prayer Hall 110806

The spartan prayer hall begins to fill up as members drift in.

Malays in Malaysia wear exactly the same costumes for Friday prayers.

Another view of the prayer hall. It looks exactly like a typical mosque in a Malaysian village.
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The Truck 110806

A member engrossed in his Quran.

On the floor I spot something unusual ...

... a toy truck, to hold and transport the holy books around the hall.
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LAST ~ The Prayer Ends 110806

Friday prayer starts at 12.30pm and by 12.55pm it's over. I've been here for a good 70 min now, and it's time to leave. I saunter to the mosque verandah and chat with an elder who speaks good Malay. Ten minutes later I leave and walk back to my hotel, 40 min away.

Clock faces in the mosque, showing the various prayer times.
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