KelantanMalaysia

Experiencing Ramadan in Kelantan

Dubbed as ‘Serambi Mekah’ (Mecca’s Verandah), Kelantan is recommended for travellers who want to experience Ramadan in a meaningful, spirited manner.

The iconic, vibrant view of Pasar Siti Khadijah in Kota Bharu. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Dubbed as ‘Serambi Mekah’ (Mecca’s Verandah), Kelantan is recommended for travellers who want to experience Ramadan in a meaningful, spirited manner.

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To many Malaysians, the holy month of Ramadan is experienced differently in the year 2022 compared to 2020 and 2021 considering many of the standard operation procedures (SOP) imposed in those two latter years to contain the spread of COVID-19 has now been eased. Finally, travellers get to experience Ramadan like the pre-COVID-19 years, or at least close to it; Ramadan bazaars and mosques throughout Malaysia can now accommodate the crowds of people at full capacity!

Since we have already been waiting so long for this, I decided to travel up north to the land of Che Siti Wan Kembang, Kelantan. Islam is strong in this vibrant state that it is colloquially dubbed as ‘Serambi Mekah’ (‘Mecca’s Verandah’). Therefore, it is appropriate that Gaya Travel recommends this state for travellers wanting to experience Ramadan in a more meaningful and spirited manner.

Here’s a list of places that all comes recommended if you happen to visit Kelantan during Ramadan!

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Tip: When visiting Kelantan, especially during Ramadan, travellers are advised to wear modest clothes to respect the local culture and mores.

KOTA BHARU

Muzium Islam (web)

This museum in Kota Bharu is a good place for travellers to embark their journey in Kelantan. The museum showcases over 350 varying exhibits relating to Islamic socio-cultural heritage, including from other countries. Travellers are bound to learn about the history of Islamic development in Kelantan, including Islamic civilisations in other countries.

The facade of Muzium Islam. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Besides exhibits, travellers should also pay attention to the building itself because it is also a masterpiece on its own. The building, completed in 1902, resembles the traditional Malay Kelantanese house in near the end of the 19th century. Among its notable features are its singgora-tiled constructed in limas bungkus style and walls graced by janda berhias motifs.

Kala Sentral (facebook)

Kala Sentral has more than a thousand products from 175 Kelantanese entrepreneurs. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Strategically located in the middle of Kota Bharu, Kala Sentral serves as a one-stop-centre for travellers who want to buy Kelantan-made products. Opened since 6 February 2022, there are more than a thousand products from 175 Kelantanese entrepreneurs being sold here. The products comprise food, crafts, textiles and more.

Masjid Muhammadi (facebook)

The stunning Muhammadi Mosque at dawn. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Due to threat of floods, the original wooden structure of Muhammadi Mosque that was built in 1867 was transferred to its current location in Kota Bharu from Sungai Budor, Seberang Paloh. It was in 1921 that the wooden mosque was replaced by a new building. Four 70-foot-tall towers – one of them adorned with four giant clocks – are attached to the mosque. Officiated on 31 July 1931 by the late Sultan Ismail ibni al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad IV, the mosque received the name ‘Muhammadi’ as an homage to Sultan Muhammad IV. It now serves as the Kelantan state mosque and can accommodate 2,400 worshippers at a time.

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Wakaf Che Yeh Night Market

This market is usually packed during weekends because this is where locals find things like clothes and accessories, besides hanging out while enjoying special delicacies like the Kelantanese cherished dish served during the nights of Ramadan (Muslim fasting month) called colek, which consists of mixed fruits and now developed into different variations.

Bazar Ramadan Stadium Sultan Muhammad IV

Snacks from Bazar Ramadan Stadium Sultan Muhammad IV.

When you ask the locals regarding which Ramadan bazaar they would recommend, chances are this bazaar would be the first to come out form their mouths! Hundreds of stalls can be found at this bazaar selling mouth-watering delicacies and must-haves during Ramadan like roti john, sosej tongmo, tepung pelita and nasi kerabu. Be spoiled over hundreds of Kelantanese snacks or sweetmeats available here including nekbat, tahi itik, buah tanjung, jala emas and more.

Jom Colek at The Grand Renai Hotel (web)

The Jom Colek set at The Grand Renai Hotel. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

We stopped by at The Grand Renai Hotel for a special moreh (light meal shared after tarawih prayers during Ramadan) to savour colek, which is a popular snack normally served during the Muslim fasting month. It has multiple version such as colek buah (mixed fruits), colek ayam (chicken), colek paru (cow’s lungs) and colek perut (tripe). The important aspect of colek is that it must be accompanied by thick, black sauce made from sugar, soy and tamarind sauce, among others. To experience this comfortably, the Ramadan-only promotion Jom Colek menu at The Grand Renai Hotel is worth considering. The menu starts from MYR80 for Set A (for four to five persons) and MYR50 for Set B (two to three persons).

Telaga Tok Kenali (Tok Kenali’s Well)

Mohd Rosdi Abdul Samad, Secretary of Kelantan Mosque Staffs and Officers Association showing Telaga Tok Kenali. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Muhammad Yusuf bin Ahmad – better known as Tok Kenali – is an eminent, respected scholar in Islamic education. He greatly contributed to the spread of Islamic teachings not only across Kelantan but also Southern Thailand during the early 20th century. Tok Kenali showed an incredible interest in knowledge that he went to as far as Mecca to study. Once he returned, he gave back to his people by establishing the traditional educational institution called the pondok to help deepen the locals’ knowledge about Islam. Besides becoming an Islamic teacher, he was also a translator, and even held the position as the first editor-in-chief for Pengasuh, the official magazine for Kelantan Islamic Council that is still in existence today. He passed away on 19 November 1933.

When he was still alive, Tok Kenali when he was finding inspiration for his writings and casually teaching his students, he would go to a well that is located four kilometres away from his house. This well was so dear to him that he willingly go there regularly by foot despite the long distance. In January 2020, Kelantan Mosque Staffs and Officers Association decided to give this well a new lease of life by encouraging people to remember Tok Kenali’s efforts and contributions.

Masjid Noor Aini Pasir Hor (facebook)

One of the main highlights near the mimbar which features a traditional door with intricate carvings of verses from the Holy Quran.

The current mosque is actually a new building that replaced the old Masjid Pasir Hor on the exact spot. It was built in 2008 and officially opened on 15 April 2011. The new name is taken from the name of Tengku Datin Noor Aini, the wife of Ahmad Rithauddeen Ismail, the royal prince of Kelantan who sponsored the construction of the mosque. The intricate design is mainly taken from Nusantara motifs with parts of it brought from Sumatra. The mosque can accommodate 1,250 worshippers at any one time.

Akok Kampung Padang Enggang (instagram)

A family-run business, this humble stall only focusses on selling akok, a sweet, wrinkly Kelantanese cake made from eggs, wheat flour, coconut milk, pandan leaves, and palm sugar. Travellers can also get a closer look on how the akok is baked manually using charcoal. The recipe is now passed down to the second generation and owned by Sakinah Ismail. For years, this place has become a local favourite to taste the authentic, traditionally-made akok.  

Rumah Tiang 12 

The facade of Rumah Tiang 12 in Kampung Dusun Muda. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

This traditional house believed to be built around 1870 was originally located in Kampung Jalan Atas Paloh. The current owner, Johan Ariff Ismail, was there to research on Malay architecture with his team before stumbling upon this house. At that time, it belonged to the fifth generation of Haji Abdul Kadir. Johan relocated the house to its current location in Kampung Dusun Muda where 80 percent of its original structure are preserved, while the rest are replaced due to irreparable damage. The house is said to have the most complete components to showcase how the majestic Malay Kelantanese house look like back then. That includes the gate, pemeleh, bendul, and singgora roof. To visit this house as a group, contact Muhammad Farhan (+6 011 5665 3661).

Pasar Siti Khadijah (web)

No trip to Kelantan is complete without visiting this long-standing market opened since 1985. Originally, the three-storey market was named Buluh Kubu Market where the majority of its vendors are women. It was then changed to its current name as a tribute to the wife of Prophet Muhammad, Siti Khadijah, who was a successful businesswoman.  

Apart from souvenirs, kitchen utensils and fabrics, there is not much to explore here as the food court is closed during Ramadan. But fret not because travellers are bound to be amazed when they can find many Kelantanese snacks and sweetmeats like nekbat, kuba guling, jala emas, ketupat sotong, labu sira, akok, ketupat serunding and piana, are sold here.

Kota Bharu Street Art

In solidarity with Palestine, the murals that grace the back alley of shophouses near Jalan Dato Pati in Kota Bharu depict the struggles of the Palestinians. Other than that, travellers can take Instagram-worthy shots with murals showing Kelantanese food, art form, public figures, landmarks and more!

Hotel Perdana Kota Bharu (web)

One of the guestrooms at Hotel Perdana Kota Bharu. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

This hotel is one of the best in Kota Bharu. Its 272 rooms and suites are a warm welcome to those who seek comfortable, value-for-money accommodation. The room comes with thoughtful amenities and access to facilities like the gymnasium and swimming pool. When I stayed at this hotel during Ramadan, I tried the hotel’s Ramadan buffet at all-day dining restaurant, Cerana, which is reasonably priced and comes recommended. Oh, the hotel also provides wake-up call for guests to have their sahur (pre-dawn meal before Muslims begin fasting)! The hotel also holds tarawih prayer for guests to join. It even offers a shuttle service to Masjid Muhammadi for Muslim guests to perform their Subuh prayer.

TUMPAT

Masjid Ar-Rahman Kubang Batang (facebook)

The main hall inside Masjid Ar-Rahman Kubang Batang. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Completed in May 2021, this majestic mosque is a new religious attraction in Tumpat, Kelantan. Cladded in stunning marble, this mosque took inspiration from other landmark mosques around the globe such as Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, and mosques in Cordoba. The design is painstakingly made to carry different meanings, for example the mihrab chamber has five tiers to symbolise the five daily obligatory prayers, the six main pillars represent the six pillar of faith in Islam, while the seven doors represent the seven owners whose land is where the mosque is built upon. At the total cost of MYR20 million and covering 27,000 metres squared, the mosque can accommodate up to 3,200 worshippers at any one time.

Pengkalan Kubor Duty Free Zone (facebook)

Some of the customers shopping for chocolates Pengkalan Kubor Duty Free Zone. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Not many travellers know this but Kelantan has a duty free zone too. Established in 1990, this fenced up zone with only two exit-entry points is supervised by the Malaysian Royal Customs. Travellers can enjoy shopping for various things, including kitchen wares, clothes, and the perfect souvenir of all, chocolates! For the convenience of the travellers, it also has facilities like public toilets, food stalls, and prayer room.

Kak Yah Budu Paye (facebook)

Wan Sofiah Wan Yusof showing her best-selling budu. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Budu, a Kelantanese staple condiment, is actually sauce made from fermented anchovies. It can be found almost in every corner of the state but one of the more popular producers is Kak Yah Budu Paye. Traditionally and authentically prepared, the anchovies are fermented inside a tempayan (a traditional stoneware jar), which is called paye in local slang. But in recent years, due to higher demand, the anchovies are fermented inside larger container.

Muzium Wau Kelantan (facebook)

One of the sections in Muzium Wau where travellers can differentiate traditional kites across Malaysia. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Located in Pantai Sri Tujoh, Tumpat, the museum displays everything travellers need to know about wau, the traditional kite that is close to the hearts of many Malay children in the old days. Each and every type of kites in Malaysia is exhibited here in detail, including Malaysia’s very own traditional kites such as Wau Bulan, Wau Jala Budi, and Wau Kucing, including Kelantan’s official kite, Wau Puyuh. Selected kites from other countries like Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and Australia are also on display. The museum organises sessions for groups who wish to learn how to make wau manually as well.

Suluk Tok Selehor

‘Suluk’ means to purify one’s soul by bringing oneself closer to God and this concept is strongly connected to Sufism. Suluk Tok Selehor is where the Kelantanese respected scholar, Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Uthman bin Senik (affectionately known as Tok Selehor) brought himself to search for inner peace and remove the feelings of arrogance or pride. To achieve that level of humility and to sharply focus in worshipping Allah, Tok Selehor spent weeks inside a small, narrow chamber located below ground in the middle of a Muslim graveyard, which travellers can visit to this day. Not far from it is Tok Selehor’s tomb lying next to Selehor Mosque.

In his lifetime, he was also a good friend of Tok Kenali, another Kelantanese scholar, and studied Islamic teachings in several places, including Patani and Mecca. He even opened a pondok (traditional Islamic school) and was known to be excellent in silat (traditional Malay martial art) and poetry.

RS Serunding (facebook)

The famous Serunding Daging Tempatan at RS Serunding. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

One of the most popular dishes during Eid Celebration in Malaysia is the serunding, which is meat floss consumed with steamy rice. In Kelantan, RS Serunding is one of the established producers of serunding. This company is based in Kampung Laut, a village famous for producing best quality serunding for decades. Though travellers might be able to get delicious serunding in many shops that dot throughout Kelantan, the serunding sold at RS Serunding in Kampung Laut is where they can buy it fresh. There are three types of serunding sold here: beef serunding (MYR56 per kilogram for imported beef and MYR66 per kilogram for local beef), chicken serunding (MYR56 per kilogram), and fish serunding (MYR45 per kilogram).

PASIR PUTEH

Madrasah Ihya Ulumuddin (facebook)

Some of the teachers and students at Madrasah Ihya Ulumuddin. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Established in June 2014 by an academician from Kota Bharu, Mohamed Khairudi Mohamed Alwi, this male only Islamic boarding school that sits on a five-acre land in Pasir Puteh currently has around 100 students, including senior citizens. The teaching is based on books such as kitab Turath, Fardhu Ain, and the Holy Quran. Besides religious syllabus, students are taught to develop basic skills such as cooking. In 2017, the school won the Best Inspirational Islamic School in Kelantan. The school organizes events for public to join during certain occasions such as reciting the Quran during Ramadan. Contact Ustaz Di at +6 013 639 3219 for more information.

GUA MUSANG

Masjid Tengku Razaleigh

Spanning 70,000 metres squared above a 1.5-hectare land, this mosque is worth a visit if travellers were heading south from Kota Bharu. The design is said to be inspired from Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and can accommodate 3,500 worshippers at any one time. It has nine 30-metre-tall towers, seven domes and an expansive open area in the middle. At the cost of RM28 million, the mosque’s awe-inspiring interior is just as stunning as its exterior.

Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to Tourism Malaysia East Coast Region Office for making the writer’s trip to Kelantan smooth-sailing.

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