I was hot, tired, and sweaty after a day of exploring the Colonial Walk along the Gombak River in central Kuala Lumpur. I could have hopped on the Metro, but the city’s historic Railway Station, with its lacy onion domes and turrets, was on the way to my hotel, so I set off on foot. The main road I was following, Jalan Kinabalu, suddenly became flooded with hundreds of men walking in the opposite direction. I dodged and wove through the oncoming masses, wondering what on earth was going on. Around the next corner the tip of a tall spire came into view and I realized what was all the foot traffic was about. That spire topped the National Mosque of Malaysia, and the men were leaving after a prayer session.
Rather than continuing on to the train station, I climbed the stairs to get a better look at the mosque. I circled around to the front for a view of the entire 240-foot high, 16-point concrete spire that soared skyward from the central minaret. The main roof is designed to resemble an open umbrella, while the minaret and its spire mimic a folded umbrella. The unique architectural design masks its true function; the folding plates of the roof allowed the mosque to incorporate an immense gathering space in the main hall. It can accommodate up to 15,000 worshipers, and I believe I met every one of them on Jalan Kinabalu that afternoon.