Masjid Perahu: Jakarta's Fantastic Ark Mosque

Masjid Perahus boat building next to the main mosque hall
Masjid Perahu's boat building next to the main mosque hall | Edira Putri / © Culture Trip
Edira Putri

As capital of the largest Muslim nation, Jakarta is no stranger to towering minarets and calls for prayer echoing from glorious mosque buildings. But amid architectural feats and historical values reflected by many other mosques, this place of worship fascinates people for the quirky boat-like building.

Tucked in the middle of lofty apartment buildings near one of Jakarta’s most bustling business districts, finding this mosque can be quite a challenge. That makes this mind-boggling mosque one of Jakarta’s best-kept secrets; in a way it’s right there at the heart of the city, while also being out of sight. Intrigued visitors will have to walk along a narrow alley adorned with murals of Arabic inscriptions.

Walkway to Masjid Perahu, Jakarta, is adorned with murals of Arabic inscription

Another alleyway takes you from the main street through local dwellings. Fortunately, even though the path is not exactly straightforward, the locals are thoughtful enough to put up signs saying ‘ke mesjid’, which means ‘to the mosque’.

Oasis in the middle of the city

You’ll know you’ve arrived when the narrow alley makes way to an open yard, blissfully shaded by several bushy trees.

Around the Muslim’s five times of prayer, the charming mosque is swarmed with locals from nearby settlements and offices. Likewise, food vendors set camp around the building, offering midday snacks or cold drinks to beat the scorching afternoon.

Masjid Perahu’s breezy yard

Amid the lovely atmosphere, this mosque’s unmissable highlight remains the boat-shaped premises. Attached beside the main mosque building, this ‘boat’ serves as a place to conduct wudu, the compulsory washing ritual before prayers. The sides of the building has taps typical of a wudu place, where worshippers can queue to cleanse themselves before heading inside the mosque.

The peculiar architecture of Masjid Perahu

At first glance, the boat-shaped building may seem random. But the quirk is not without a thoughtful philosophical considerations.

This mosque was built as Masjid Agung Al Munada Darussalam Baiturrahman in 1962. The main mosque building and the boat part were built at the same time as part of the grand design. The boat was inspired by the story of Noah and his ark. The Holy Quran depicts the patriarch’s obedience and persistence trying to save the nation.

Masjid Perahu’s fascinating boat building

The reference to Noah’s Ark may not be obvious when seeing this mosque, as the boat is a more modern rendition and looks more like a medium-sized fishing boat. Nevertheless, the sentimentality and profound philosophy pertains: the mosque was built to accommodate the people around on their path to faith and divinity while protecting them from calamity.

Shifting the eyesight slightly to the right, the main prayer building doesn’t look nearly as eccentric as the boat. Quite the contrary, the mosque looks low-key and humble with a homey ambiance, topped with a brown tiered roof as the minaret. But the architectural and heritage elements housed by this building were actually on par with the special and unique boat.

Masjid Perahu’s main mosque hall

Two of the four main pillars inside the building were gifts from the country’s first minister of Religious Affairs. At the front, the podium is embellished with exquisite carvings of verses from the Holy Book.

Moreover, the library area is home to a gigantic Holy Quran with a 2 x 1 meter dimension, inscribed through a span of 30 years by a calligrapher from Madura, Ustad Amir Hamzah. As if that is not impressive enough, the Quran is enhanced by 16 precious stones around it. Visitors can ask for the massive Quran to be opened and be mesmerised by the mystical and aesthetic beauty inside.

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