By Shanti Gunaratnam
EACH monument tells its own story - stories of great love and heartache, the spread of Islam around the globe, the study on calculations for the lunar year and the Muslim calendar as well the Islamic rule in Spain, among others.
It starts with the Great Mosque of Xian and goes on to tell the stories of other prominent mosques in the world and places of great Islamic importance.
The Prophet's mosque in Medina is the second holiest mosque in Islam.
From Pattani in south Thailand, Xian in China and Agra in India to Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Mecca - Taman Tamadun Islam (Islamic Civilisation Park in Kuala Terengganu) has it all covered.
The miniature monuments of these symbols of the Islamic world have been recreated in the Education and Entertainment Park or simply the Edutainment Park which is also commonly called the Monuments Park. It is set in the sprawling Islamic Civilisation Park on Pulau Wan Man, one of the many river islands dotting Sungai Terengganu.
The park is the first of its kind in the world that provides a holistic view of the religion. The most popular monument is a replica of the Sultan Suleyman Mosque, which is often mistaken for Turkey's world-famous landmark, The Sultan Ahmed Mosque or popularly known as the Blue Mosque.
Everyday, hundreds of people pose for pictures in front of the replica of the Sultan Suleyman Mosque thinking that it is the Blue Mosque only to be corrected later, by the guides there.
Many are often taken aback by their mistakes while others would just giggle and take a closer look, wondering whether they are right and the guide is mistaken!
Then there's the replica of the wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal. The original was built by 20,000 workers and craftsmen who came from as far as the Persian Gulf to work on the world's greatest monument of love. Some 28 types of precious and semi precious stones inlaid in the walls had been plundered by the British and jewel thieves.
Just a short walk away from the replica of the Taj Mahal is that of the world's largest mosque, Masjid Al-Haram, also known as the Grand Mosque or The Sacred Mosque.
Besides being the largest mosque in the world, Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is also the holiest place for Muslims.
Annually, some four million Muslims on pilgrimage gather there to pray. The mosque surrounds the Kaaba, a cube-shaped stone structure in Mecca which is the the holiest shrine in Islam.
The Crystal Mosque looks absolutely stunning at night.
The replica of the mosque is not quite ready yet but it will be by early September.
Tourists from China will be impressed with the miniature version of the Great Mosque of Xian, one of the oldest mosques in China built during the Tang Dynasty period.
Unlike other mosques, the Great Mosque of Xian looks more like a 15th Century Buddhist temple as it doesn't have the domes or the traditional-style minarets. Instead, it has symbols of dragons and lions.
Chinese Muslims, especially the Hui people, pray at this mosque. It is also at this mosque that spring water is used for ablution.
Besides the Edutainment Park, the Islamic Civilisation Park also has commercial and convention centres as well as a cafeteria selling local and Western cuisine.
The biggest attraction is, of course, the Crystal Mosque which looks absolutely stunning at night. It takes about three hours to take a leisure walk around the entire park including the Edutainment Park but if your're in a hurry, you can also do it in just under an hour.
The best time to go is in the mornings or after 3pm because the trees in the park are still young saplings and it can get very hot in the day, especially for young children.
Besides the park, you can also go on a river cruise to see the goings-on on the river with many boats making their way from the river mouth to the South China Sea. To join the cruise, head for the Shah Bandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu.
When To Go & Tickets
The park opens from 10am till 7pm on weekdays and opens an hour earlier on weekends. It is closed on Tuesdays but is open seven days a week during school and public holidays.
The entrance fee to the Edutainment Park is RM10 (S$4.20) for adults and RM5 (S$2.10) for children. These include a RM3 meal voucher and a "passport" as souvenir of having visited the park. The ticket counter closes at 6.15pm.
Tram rides around the park costs RM2 (S$0.80) (adults) and RM1 (S$0.40) (children). You can hop on a buggy to tour the place. Just pay RM30 (S$12.60) for a six-seater and RM20 (S$8.40) for a four-seater.
For details, call 09-627 8888 or fax: 09-630 9020.
How To Get There
The park is located at Pulau Wan Man, Losong Panglima Perang, 4km from Kuala Terengganu. The island is just across from the Waterfront Heritage City, Pulau Duyung, the venue for the Terengganu Monsoon Cup.
Kuala Teregganu is accessible via the East-West Highway. After Kuantan, take the road from Cherating to Gambang for a scenic drive to Kuala Terengganu.
Take in the sights of kampung houses that dot both sides of the road leading to Kuala Terengganu. The place is bordered by a blue-green sea providing a contrasting backdrop for the grey, earthy brown and green landscape. If you are travelling at night, you will be blown away by the sight of the many oil refineries in Kertih just before Kuala Terengganu. Kertih looks like a 'mini' Las Vegas with its sky illuminated by the refineries' spectacular flame towers. These flames burn around the clock.
Where To Stay
While Terengganu has choices of accommodation from five-star resorts and city hotels to budget lodging, staying at Residence Resort in Paka, about 10 minutes drive away from Kertih, will allow you to enjoy the night view at Kertih. The resort also organises tours to various places of interest, including the Islamic Civilisation Park.
Photos by Munira Abdul Ghani