Saturday, March 8, 2008

A helmet, mosque, wedding, and pool ... bye, Banda Aceh!

Folks, this is my final blog from Banda Aceh. Thank your for your support and words of encouragement over the past year!

The previous blog was supposed to be the last one, but that changed when my staff gave me a beautiful going-away present. They gave me a replica of the helmet reputed to be worn by Teuku Umar of Aceh, an Indonesian national hero of resistance against the Dutch. They had it specially sized so that it would fit my fat head!

Nice hat, eh? Teuku Umar's exploits in the long war against the Dutch are legendary. Check out his story by clicking here on Melayu Online.

Receiving that hat reminded me that I hadn't photographed the very unusual mosque that I pass by every day on the way to work. It's on Jalan (Street) Teuku Umar in Banda Aceh. Instead of the usual silver or otherwise standard dome, this mosque has Teuku Umar's helmet as the dome!

I forgot to record the mosque's name, but everybody just calls it Mesjid Teuku Umar. It's on the street of that name, and the dome comprises Teuku Umar's helmet! Here's a close-up of the dome. Compare that with the first photo above, the replica I received.

The gates to the mosque grounds are also crowned with a small replica of the helmet. This being close to our office, our staff come here on Fridays for their prayers.

There's a pair of stairways that lead to the upper level of the mosque.

The stairs are covered by a roof adorned with Acehnese wood carvings.

A close-up shows the flower motif that's common in Acehnese woodcarvings, paintings, and batik. (Click on photo for enlargement.)

Here's a close-up of the men's shirt from the previous blog. You can see the flower motif as well:

Similar motifs are apparent in our office on Jalan Sudirman. Our office is a large house belonging to a formed high provincial official that used a lot of Acehnese woodcarvings in his house.

This is another carving from the office. Click on photo to view details.

Back to the hat ... I had a chance last weekend to attend yet another wedding in Aceh. Here's the groom at his house getting ready to suit up. This fella's Sadaruddin, one of the engineers in my section.

He tries it on for size before embarking on the motorcade to the bride's house...

The groom's party arrives at the bride's house. Is he having second thoughts about taking this big step?

But soon the bride arrives and all doubts are dispelled!

And another perfectly good bachelor bites the dust!

My Aceh blog isn't complete without a shot of what kept me sane during the long work days... the prospect of swimming laps at the pool at the Hermes Palace Hotel in Banda Aceh! It's a boomerang-shaped pool --- we estimate about 35 m long!

We are a respectable Shariah law province. Rules for pool attire and behavior are clearly spelled out!

Another frequent swimmer is little Micah, who's training to be in the US Olympics team in, oh, about fifteen years. His mom Laura is teaching at the local university here, and his dad Jeff is an engineer working for an NGO that is building reconstruction housing.

The friendly hotel staff keep an eye on us while we are in the pool, and assist us in every way.

And it's time to go --- I leave in about three days. My landlord holds his grand-daughter, Sahira Avida Oemar, while she bids me farewell and Godspeed.


naim said...

Great finale, Howard. Yes, I remember spotting that mosque with the funny dome when I was in Banda Aceh last January. Btw, I've completed my Aceh pictorials, pls visit all 4 parts:

We just got back from Sumatra Barat and climbed volcano Marapi - see pics here:

All the best with future undertakings, wherever you are.

Anis said...

The helmet is a wonderful send off gift, original and meaningful. Too bad I didn't have the chance to travel to Banda Aceh at all while you are still there, perhaps we could do it some time in the future by Air Asia when you are back visiting KL. I will miss your blog very much although I am sure nothing will stop you from continuing your blogging any where - except that your Aceh blog is very special and highly entertaining.

naim said...


Pls visit my travel site for pictorials of the Marapi climb. It's in 3 chapters, viz: - Part 1: Climbing Mt Merapi - Part 2: Atop a Volcano - Part 3: The Smoking Crater


Temuk said...

Hello Howard
I enjoyed looking at your Acheh pictures very, very much, especially the wedding photos. I will have to spend more time later so that I can really appreciate the uniqueness of each and every photo that you have posted on your blog. Thanks for sharing.

Howard said...

Hello, Temuk! I'm glad you enjoyed them. They're a bit dated now, but it's always fun to look at the pictures! Cheers!

Temuk said...

Hi Howard'
Its me again. You know, I still keep on coming back to your blog because I just love to see all those pictures of Aceh & the Acenese over and over again. I love to learn about other cultures, especially through pictures! Have you stopped blogging? You are no more in Indonesia now?
Cheers & have a nice day!

Howard said...

Hello again, Pak Temuk!

Alas, I've been back from Banda Aceh for a year and a half now. I hope to go back one day, hopefully not too far in the future, but nothing concrete yet. I stopped blogging when I came back to the US. In Aceh, everything was wonderful and eye-opening, and I had many, many more pictures and blog stories that I never had time to publish. But thank you for your kind words, and I hope that one day you'll be able to go there and experience the wonderful location and people for yourself! (I believe Air Asia flies several times a week from KL!) Cheers!