Peeking into Jakarta’s Spiritual Heart

I’m going to be honest, Jakarta really wasn’t on my Bucket List, but when faced with a work conference with limited free time, I was determined not to go all that way and come back without any glimpses into the culture of our closest Asian neighbour.

Of course there were the usual opportunities for drinks with amazing views,

Skye Bar view
Skye Bar view

but I wanted to see something that would be close to the hearts of the locals and with that in mind, I set the alarm early and took myself and a few other colleagues off to the world’s 5th largest mosque, and the largest in South East Asia – Istiqlal Mosque.IMG_9040

The word istiqlal in Arabic means “independence” and the mosque is certainly a tribute to Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands.  It took 17 years to build , but I’m sure the locals feel it was worth the wait. The guide (compulsory for visitors) who showed us around the mosque was certainly proud of it’s heritage.IMG_9019

We visited between prayer times so there were only a few devotees in the main prayer hall, however that didn’t detract from appreciating the incredible scale of the dome – 45 metres in diameter as a tribute to their independence in 1945.  IMG_9018

I could only imagine what it must be like full of worshippers – a mind boggling 120,000 can fit, not only on the floor of the hall, but in the 4 tiered balconies that ring the hall.  It was cool, calm and peaceful when we visited, despite the heat outside, and our guide assured us that even full, the temperature remained comfortable.IMG_9023

Outside in one of the courtyards is a massive drum carved from a single tree trunk with the hide of a single cow (must have been huge!), or else it was a bullock – perhaps a lost in translation moment.IMG_9030

Although you’re not free to wander at will, it was interesting to hear about the building from our guide with only a small donation asked in return.  All in all, I was glad to have seen a glimpse into the spiritual heart of Indonesia, albeit though my western eyes.


  1. I’m actually writing a post on places around Jakarta’s focal point, including Istiqlal Mosque. I have been living in Jakarta since 2008, but yesterday was my first time ever visiting the mosque. It was such a huge mosque indeed, but the architecture somehow reminded me of buildings from Soviet era. Perhaps that’s because this was built during Sukarno era. Hence its left-leaning architecture.


    • You’re right about the architecture, it seems like a bit of a departure from what you’d usually expect from an Asian mosque. Apparently the architecture was a bit controversial at the time. Thanks for your comment!


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