Taman Tamadun Islam, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
It’s a small world after all. Especially when you shrink some of the planet’s greatest landmarks into miniature models that you can fit into a theme park.
Although… it’s not landmarks from the whole world. These ones are only from the Muslim world – mosques and minarets. Because the Taman Tamadun Islam theme park in the city of Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia is dedicated to Islam.
There’s the tiny model of Mecca – thankfully without the crowds of people you would find at the real one during the Haj. There’s a replica of the Great Mosque of Samarra from Iraq and the Great Mosque of Xian from China. There’s even the Taj Mahal (again, thankfully without the crowds) – which is obviously not a mosque but is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture.
They are all far too small to go into – just models that you can walk around and look at. The only exhibit at Taman Tamadun Islam that is large enough to enter is a replica of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Inside, the details of the interior decorations have been replicated and it feels solemn… am I really at an amusement park?
Not that Taman Tamadun Islam is particularly ‘fun’. There are no rides or amusements other than the models. Beneath some of the small buildings are halls with museum-style exhibits and information placards. The children I see here seem to be enjoying themselves but that may be more about the outing itself, than the destination.
Perhaps I have misunderstood the promotional materials and the descriptions I have read about the theme park. It is presented as somewhere fun for the family (and it is mainly families who are here). But it seems much more like a school excursion than a crazy day out. Education more than entertainment.
Taman Tamadun Islam is one of the main attractions of the east coast city of Kuala Terengganu. There might not seem like many reasons for a tourist to stop here – perhaps only as a transit on the way to the Perhentian Islands. But, despite the scarcity of famous sights, it’s actually a very pleasant city with a relaxed atmosphere and good food.
The Crystal Mosque
The most famous attraction in Kuala Terengganu sits right next to the theme park. Glittering and glowing, it is the Crystal Mosque.
The mosque got its name because of what it is built from – steel, glass and crystal. In the harsh Malaysian sun, it catches the light and seems to radiate. You can see it from a long way off – from the bridge as you come into town from the north, for instance. Up close it is intense.
I go inside and find the decoration of the interior to be quite staid in comparison. Only the large chandelier in the centre has a hint of all the glass that creates the external effect. With smooth white walls and lots of shade, the main space is actually quite cool and calming. That may be intentional, as a contrast to the exterior.
That’s not to say the interior doesn’t have its own kind of beauty. Particularly with the light coming in from the opaque doors on the bottom level and the gold writing on the ceiling, it is relaxing but enjoyable at the same time.
Islam in Malaysia
In general, Islam in Malaysia is also quite cool and calming, I find. It is the majority religion in the country and you can see its influence everywhere – whether it’s the mosques in every town, the restaurants without alcohol, the women wearing hijabs. Yet it doesn’t seem to dominate the culture.
Malaysia is comfortably secular for the most part – probably because there is little alternative when you have so many people with different backgrounds living together in the same country. But when you visit somewhere like Taman Tamadun Islam or the Crystal Mosque and you see all the families, it’s a reminder of how important this faith is to a large part of the population.
Seeing all of these model buildings reminds me of two other things. Firstly, that Islamic art and architecture is stunning, with its intricate details and colours and flowing lively shapes. And secondly, that I have not seem enough of it in person.
For no particular reason, I have visited only a few majority Muslim countries in my six years of travel. I think it’s because it’s pretty difficult to see every country and I tend to have focused on a few main regions. The regions where Islam is dominant have not been those ones… and the reality is that, outside of Asia, these countries are generally not in the easiest places to travel.
I think I will have to change this in the future. Perhaps it’s time to start putting together a plan to focus a bit more on the Muslim world and see some of the sites at Taman Tamadun Islam for myself – at their original scale.
Where is Taman Tamadun Islam?
Taman Tamadun Islam is on an island in the river, just southwest of the centre of Kuala Terengganu. The official address is Pulau Wan Man, Losong Panglima Perang, 21000 Kuala Terengganu. You can see it on a map here.
The easiest way to get to the park from the city centre is by the tourist bus that does a loop of the important spots in Kuala Terengganu – and it only costs RM1! You can find the timetable here.
When is Taman Tamadun Islam open?
From Monday to Thursday, the park is open from 1000 – 1900 (10am – 7pm).
From Friday to Sunday, it is open from 0900 – 1900 (9am – 7pm).
How much does it cost to visit Taman Tamadun Islam?
For an adult, the entrance is RM21.20 (US$4.90) and for a child or senior citizen it is RM15.90 (US$3.65).
Where should you stay in Kuala Terengganu?
A convenient budget option with single (but tiny) rooms is The Space Inn.
For another affordable place with larger rooms, the Suite18 Boutique Hotel also has a good location.
If you’re looking for a nice hotel that doesn’t charge too much, you could try the Asia Premium Hotel.
And for one of the nice accommodations in town, have a look at the Grand Puteri Hotel.