Heritage and history are probably not something one would immediately associate Kuala Lumpur with, but the city’s mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz begs to differ.
In fact, the man believes some old structures in the uber modern city have potential for recognition under Unesco’s World Heritage List.
Star Metro recently reported that certain associations and elected representatives have questioned why the capital city has no heritage recognition. They argue that KL is filled with over a century’s worth of history.
For the uninitiated, KL has gone through several rites of passage: A tin boom in the mid-19th century, a devastating fire, a major flood, the Japanese occupation, over a century of British rule and today – Malaysia’s national capital.
There are currently only a handful Unesco sites in Malaysia: The historic cities of Penang and Melaka (jointly listed); Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak; Kinabalu Park in Sabah; and the Lenggong Valley archeological site in Perak.
To be eligible for the Unesco World Heritage status, a site must be of outstanding universal value and meets at least one of the 10 selection criteria.
While some detractors argue that the accolade is just a hyped-up status and disrupts local life (Italian writer Marco d’Eramo infamously called it “Unesco-cide”), a Unesco listing is a surefire boon for tourism.
We take a look at some KL attractions and the illustrious history behind them. Vote below for which KL sites you think should get Unesco World Heritage status.
Formerly known as the Selangor Padang, this field is an important historic landmark in the country. The former Union Jack flagpole is located on the west side of Dataran Merdeka. The British flag was lowered for the final time at midnight of Aug 30, 1957, signalling the end of British rule and paving the way for Malaya’s independence.
The field was once a vegetable farm. When the British bought over the surrounding land in the area to build administration buildings, a condition was imposed – to keep a piece of green in the city.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Easily recognisable by its striking clock tower, this building just across Dataran Merdeka has gone through several incarnations in its over-a-century-old existence. The elegant symmetrical brick structure housed the Federated Malay States administration in 1897, then the High Court and Supreme Court in 1972. Today it houses offices of both Communications and Multimedia Ministry and Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.
Built by architects A.C. Norman and R.A.J. Bidwell, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is a prime example of Moghul architecture in the city. It features arched colonnades and copper domes.
In its heyday, traders flock to Medan Pasar – known then as Old Market Square – as there were facilities like banks, textile shops, grocers, and traditional medicinal halls. The buzzing business hub was headed by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, the founder of KL.
An art deco clock tower in commemoration of the coronation of King George IV stands in the area today. There are also three-storey shop houses that date back to the 1920s.
Guan Di Temple
Dedicated to the God of War, this 130-year-old place of worship is one of the oldest temples in the country. For over a century, devotees flock here to seek blessings and protection from Guan Di (also known as Guan Yu or General Kwan). According to legend, anyone who can lift the heavy copper Guan Dao (Chinese pole weapon) at the temple will receive abundant blessings.
The temple features fine Chinese architecture. Its roof is adorned by symbols that depict power and wealth.
Located at the confluence of two important rivers in the city (Gombak and Klang), Masjid Jamek is the first brick mosque in KL. Its construction was funded by the Malay community with contribution from the then British colonial government.
The building, built in 1909, is a shining example of Moghul architecture. It features three Moghul domes, a beautiful courtyard and gorgeous minarets. In 1965, it was officially declared as the National Mosque.
Today, the new National Mosque stands not too far away from this historic place of worship.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Originally built as a private shrine in 1873, this temple was opened to the public in the 1920s. The temple is named after the goddess Mahamariamman (a manifestation of the goddess Parvati) and features elaborate and intriguing architectural designs. Visitors will find intricate carvings of many Hindu deities that are decorated with gold and precious stones.
The country’s tallest Hindu silver chariot (used during Thaipusam celebrations) is kept here. The temple’s South Indian style tower is adorned with Hindu depictions that were sculptured by artisans from southern India.