Showcase of Islamic arts

The Inverted Dome Pavillion at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia offers space for a variety of events like art and photography exhibitions.

I so often wondered what the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) in Jalan Lembah Perdana, Kuala Lumpur is all about. That opportunity presented itself when I was requested to contribute my piece to this edition of “KL on a Shoestring” series.

Located in the green surroundings of Kuala Lumpur’s Lake Gardens, IAMM is said to be one of the world’s youngest museums.

Displaying a modern architectural style with an Islamic feel, the 30,000sq m building was opened on Dec 12, 1998.

As I entered the lower ground level, I was amazed by the white interior, which very much exhibited a bright and spacious environment.

What caught my eyes was one of the most beautiful domes I had ever seen — an inverted dome filled with artistic designs and glass. This area, also known as the Inverted Dome Pavilion, offers space for a variety of events, including photography and art exhibitions.

Chain mail shirt armour from India made in the 17th century AD (11th century AH) exhibitedat the Arms and Armour Gallery at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Jalan Lembah Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.
Chain mail armour shirts from India, made in the 17th century AD (11th century AH).

I was informed that this and four other domes in the building were the works of craftsmen from Uzbekistan.

Gazing up at the domes just gives one a pleasant feeling.

From here, I took the lift to Level 1, which houses five galleries — Architecture Gallery; Quran Gallery and Manuscript Gallery; India Gallery; China Gallery; and Malay Gallery.

The Architecture Gallery showcases models of some of the greatest monuments of the Islamic world.

Among the interesting models not to be missed is the Standard Chartered Ottoman room, which was built in 1235 AH (1820-21 AD). Also look out for models of the mosque at Daxuexi Lane in Xian, China and Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram.

One will definitely find it fascinating to be in the India Gallery, as it showcases the history of Islamic India. This goes back three centuries before the Mughal era (1526-1828).

Powder flask from Ottoman Turkey (19th century AD /13th century AH_ exhibited at the Arms and Armour Gallery at Islamic   Arts Museum Malaysia in Jalan Lembah Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.
An Ottoman powder flask. - Photos by MUHAMMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI

Here, you will be amazed to see the variety of dynasties that had ruled in northern India, from the Turks to the Mongols.

Fashion and jewellery had made its presence felt during this time and you will find a range of handmade pieces, using brass, gold, silver and exquisite gemstones.

Level 2 houses five other galleries, including Jewellery, Arms and Armour, Textile, Woodwork, Coin and Seal, Metalwork and Ceramics.

I, for one, did not want to leave the Jewellery Gallery. The ones that caught my eye were handmade pieces with emeralds, rubies, pearls and other semi-precious stones, all of which were worn by the elite of various Islamic societies. Other interesting pieces were the nose rings and huge bangle-like anklets.

The Arms and Armour Gallery is probably one that is favoured by most men and young boys. The collection at this gallery are objects that stand out as works with sculptural quality.

On the other hand, the Textile Gallery is also an interesting spot, featuring one of the finest handwoven silks, brocades and cottons.

IAMM’s Scholar’s Library is a vital part of the museum’s mission to be a preserver, educator and centre of learning Islamic art and architecture.

The library has a collection of books and manuscripts that reflects the museum’s activities, from exhibitions to its conservation works and publications.

Other facilities include the Islamic Arts Museum Shop, Museum Restaurant and Conservation Centre.

I spent about two hours at IAMM, which is considered reasonably fast. However, according to a spokesman who works there, some visitors spend more than half a day at the museum.

The Museum Restaurant’s specialty is authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, but diners can have their choice of local and Western delights as well.

Pricing per dish starts from RM30, therefore I would not advise budget travellers to dine here.

You may opt to walk to the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (KTMB) in Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, about 500m down the road for other dining options.

As it started to rain heavily, I could not experience that walk or have lunch at KTMB.

Entrance fee for adults is RM14, while students and senior citizens pay only RM7. It is free for children below six years.

It is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Visitors can park opposite the museum where there is ample parking space.

For details, visit IAMM’s website at

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