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Hajjah Fatimah Mosque

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque (26)

The mosque in front of you was declared a national monument in 1973 and is known for its distinctive minaret as well as its combination of both Eastern and Western architectural styles.

The Mosque now stands on the same spot where Hajjah Fatimah once lived, hence the name. She was a woman from a wealthy family who married a prince from the Sulawesi islands, and whose only daughter married the son of Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff, a rich Arab merchant, also from a wealthy family.

The Hajjah Fatimah’s residence was ransacked twice, even going up in flames the second time. Luckily, she was not home that day. She was so full of joy and relief that her life was spared, after deciding to go and live somewhere else, she decided to donate this land to build a mosque. If you look around the area you will see that this is perhaps one of the few small-nineteenth century buildings left standing.  The rest of Java Road is now home to large buildings and skyscrapers.

Inside the complex is a large prayer hall, the imam’s residence, a garden, mausoleums and other small buildings, all in elegant shades of cream and chocolate. We recommend that you walk around the prayer hall and the cemetery; a beautiful and melancholy setting with, oddly enough, square tombstones for women and round tombstones for me. The graves of Hajjah Fatimah, her daughter and her husband are also nearby, in a private area.

The mosque was designed by an unknown European architect even though experts point to Britain's John Turnbull Thomson, architect for the second St Andrew's Cathedral. The building was constructed by French contractors using Malay labour and was finally completed in 1846.

No doubt its most distinctive feature is the minaret, slightly inclined and with a style more reminiscent of a church than a mosque. It is made up of a square base, two octagonal towers with a pyramid at the end. It is interesting to note that its slight lean toward the dome has earned it the local nickname Leaning Tower of Singapore, a reference to the Tower of Pisa, of course.

Over time, the mosque has undergone many restorations and renovations, the most important of which was in the 1930s, when French contractors Bossard & Mopin remodelled the main prayer hall using the design of the architects Chung & Wong.

Although it is not as spectacular as the Sultan’s Mosque, five minutes from here, take the time to admire the bulb-shaped Mughal style dome, as well as the 12 warhead-shaped windows, typical of late Middle Ages Gothic.

The mosque is even more beautiful at dusk when the lights enhance its shapes and highlight the contrast with the skyscrapers in the background. If you want a drink, something to eat or just want to go shopping, you can go to Golden Mile Complex, a nearby commercial and residential centre.

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