Golden Mosque: Depok, West Java

In Depok, West Java, lies the golden-domed Dian Al Mahri mosque, where hundreds of people gather to pray daily. More than anything else, they are drawn by their desire for a religious experience in what is dubbed the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia.

On Wednesday, worshipers arrived by the busload at the mosque. Braving the scorching heat, they traveled the same path. No one wanted to be left out.

Standing on an 8,000-square-meter property on Jl. Raya Meruyung, about 10 kilometers away from downtown Depok, the mosque has become something of a landmark amid the housing complexes and shops.

Its five domes, symbolic of the Five Pillars of Islam, are coated with shimmering — reportedly 24-carat — gold leaf.

Visitors are told to take their shoes off before entering the mosque; its marble floors can feel hot under bare feet, yet they are no less eager to see all parts of the building.

“It’s like those mosques in the Middle East I have seen in pictures and on TV,” said Itje Gunawan from West Sumatra, admiring the pictures of it she had taken with her digital camera.

She had even managed to take a number of interior shots though visitors are in fact not allowed to photograph the inside of the mosque.

Itje said the one she liked best was a photo of the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, which is painted to look like a blue sky filled with small white puffy clouds.

The construction of the mosque in 2001 was financed by property and service businesswoman from Banten, Dian Juriah Maimun Al Rasyid, and her husband Maimun Al Rasyid, an oil businessman.

The head of the mosque’s management office, Yudi Camaro, said Dian and Maimun — who divided most of their time between Jakarta and Singapore — had envisioned building a center for Muslims to carry out both social and economic activities.

In the first stage of the construction process, the mosque was built along with three villas, a multifunction building and a number of shops.

Architect Uke Setiawan was responsible for most of the design

The complex was opened in December, although it was not yet 100 percent finished.

The mosque can accommodate about 15,000 worshipers, many less than the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta, which has room for 60,000.

People are mostly interested in seeing the golden domes and millions of them, according to the mosque’s management, have visited the complex since it opened. Fridays and weekends are the busiest days when there can be thousands of visitors.

Hundreds of couples have been married at the mosque, holding their receptions in the multifunction building.

Bogor resident Muaiminah, who was visiting the mosque with her Koran study group Wednesday, said she was happy to have seen the golden domes with her own two eyes.

“It is a comfortable place to be too as it is surrounded by trees and gardens,” she said, although she complained about the distance between the mosque and the room provided for women to wash before prayer.

While men can use a bathroom inside the mosque, women have to walk to the multipurpose building.

In the next stage of the area’s development, the owners plan to build schools for students of all ages, Yudi said.

Yudi said the supporting facilities, such as schools and shops, were being built to generate revenue to cover the maintenance costs of the mosque once everything was finished.

Yudi declined to say the total investment required for the mosque’s construction.

“In the future, the owner will establish a management board that will report to Bu Hajjah Dian and her husband as the sole investors,” he said.

Currently, the complex is managed by the developer company. Some of its workers, including Yudi who is a civil engineer, are involved in the mosque’s daily operations.

Regardless of whether it is the biggest mosque in the region, visitors say they have found a Mecca within arm’s reach.

Adisti Sukma Sawitri