Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Petronius Towers in KL

I tried to go up the Petronius Towers several days ago, but they are a very popular tourist attraction here and the tickets to visit the viewing station on the 86th floor are limited and sell out quickly. So I bought a ticket for today instead.

It's actually quite nice that they limit the number of tickets that are sold. This means that only a reasonable number of people are up at the observation deck at one time, and you don't have to stand in line very long either; just show up at the time printed on your ticket, and up you go.

At one point the Petronius Towers were the tallest buildings in the world, but in recent years they have been passed by Taipei 101 in Taiwan, and now by the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. They are still the tallest TWIN towers in the world, which Malaysians will not hesitate to point out if you ask.

This was your standard "view from the top" experience. The buildings themselves are unusual. They are supposed to reflect Islamic architectural characteristics, but to me they look as if someone in the 1930's tried to imagine what the "building of the future" would look like. They also look like giant bullets, or maybe oversized rockets. They are pretty cool looking, I think!

One thing I found myself observing today was the myriad different styles of feminine Islamic fashion on display among the people touring the towers. I know Malaysia is a popular vacation spot for Muslims, and I certainly understand why. Even though it is ethnically diverse, it is also very accommodating to Muslim sensibilities. Even most Chinese food in restaurants is "halal", ie pork-free! So today I saw full-length black burkas with only slits for eyes, elaborate costumes with long sleeves, long pants, and head-coverings like a nun's, modest pant and long sleeved outfits, but flowing, colorful scarfs for hair-covering, and modest modern dress, with a scarf loosely tossed over their hair.

I found myself wondering what the burka-covered ladies thought as they looked out at all the various styles of dress surrounding them, all of it considered appropriate attire for a Muslim woman by the person wearing it. Did they think that the rest of the Muslim women were missing the mark? Or did they wonder why some Muslims wore fashionable clothing while they were hidden away? It's so far beyond my ability to imagine that I don't really have any idea what they were thinking. I found myself observing their eyes, which in some cases were heavily made up, and seemed very expressive. I saw their shoes peeking out from under their burkha, and noticed their designer handbags too. It's just a puzzle to me, everything about it.

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