Hari Raya (Eid) celebrates the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. In Malaysia, it goes from being solemn to superbly festive with people flaunting off new clothes, eating terrific calorific food, visiting family and opening their hearts and homes to everyone.
While the whole country may be celebrating, its capital Kuala Lumpur suddenly becomes quiet. Why? Because half of the city’s population have gone back to their hometowns to celebrate with family. Undeniably, the clear roads and reduction in noise pollution is a pleasant change of pace for those who are Klang Valley based, and if you’re a visitor, it could possibly be the best time to visit the great city of KL.
So whether you’re local, a tourist, celebrating, or not, here’s a roundup of things to do that’s all in tune with making the most of Kuala Lumpur during Syawal – the month of Raya 2018.
Eat lemang and rendang
First things first – fill up your tummy with the perfect blend of ebony and ivory, your yum to your my, and an essential dish during Raya. Give your taste buds a treat with this delicious glutinous rice cooked in a hollowed bamboo stick, topped off with spicy tender meat (commonly beef rendang) in a thick gravy made of spices, herbs and coconut cream.
Around this time, you will find lemang being sold along roadsides, with some ready to eat and some still being grilled for those that want it fresh. For your fix of rendang, look out for makeshift stalls set up around town or just follow the smell of heavenly braised meat.
Attend an open house
If all else fails in your search for lemang and rendang, find yourself a Hari Raya open house. This favourite Malaysian tradition is meant to welcome people from all walks of life into their homes to feed and be merry. If you’re confident enough, show up to any home (the throngs of shoes outside the home is a giveaway there’s an open house going on) and invite yourself in. If you have a Muslim friend that’s hosting an open house, ask first if and when they are having one. Make sure to observe proper etiquette like dressing modestly and if you decide to come bearing gifts, make sure it’s Halal compliant.
During Hari Raya 2017 the Istana Negara hosted an open house on the first day of Syawal but it is yet to be determined this year as when this article was written.
Gain knowledge at the Islamic Arts Museum
For an eye-opening experience to understand Islamic arts and architecture, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is your go-to place. It is the largest museum of Islamic arts in South East Asia with more than 7,000 artifacts across 12 galleries.
Marvel at the décor
Shopping malls in Malaysia pride themselves in their décor during the festive holidays, and with all the different cultures, expect a dressed-up concourse throughout the year celebrating various cultural events. Hari Raya is no exception and you’ll instantly feel the festive mood with the hues of greens and gold illuminating with every stride you take. Not only that, major malls will often host traditional song and dance performances – something for the whole family to enjoy.
Recommended places in the city to catch these marvels: Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Suria KLCC, and Sunway Velocity Mall.
Enjoy a good sale
While admiring the decorations, make sure to take advantage of all the retail deals this time of year. The month of Raya usually calls for a good sale so if you’re staying somewhere in the heart of the city at say a Tune Hotel Kuala Lumpur, you’ll have shopping centres like Sogo Malaysia a stone’s throw away. Not only will you enjoy the 5-star comfort at a budget price at Tune, you will also appreciate the convenience of easy access to other bigger shopping malls like Pavillion Kuala Lumpur and Suria KLCC via LRT or Monorail.
Ride the LRT/Monorail
Speaking of the LRT and Monorail, the easiest way to get around town is with Malaysia’s public transport system MyRapid. That said, instead of going somewhere, why not just stay on board the LRT or Monorail for a few hours to people watch. It’s that time of year where spirits are high with everyone in a good mood. Not only that, you will also get unobstructed views of buildings and other points of interest while in the cool comforts of an air-conditioned train.
Visit Masjid Negara
The National Mosque of Malaysia is a sight to behold. It has the capacity for 15,000 people and is situated among 13 acres of lush gardens. It’s free to enter but visit outside of prayer times to ensure entry. The best way to get there is by car and it’s located on
Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana.
Stroll around Kampung Baru
While a lot of Malaysians use the festive period to “balik kampong” (head back to the village), right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur is another kind of village. Kampong Baru, which literally means New Village, is an enclave that has persevered through time to preserve the ethnic Malay lifestyle. Get as close to what village life is like without having to travel to the actual boondocks.
View the Kampung Baru map here and begin exploring.