Friday, August 22, 2014

Merdeka Square

After passing the Masjid Jamek mosque (that's probably redundant...I've seen the word masjid elsewhere and it probably means search, yes, it does), I made my way out into Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square.  Merdeka, in Malay, means independence.  The open area was once the cricket pitch of the Selangor Club and is lined with colonial buildings from the years of British control of the peninsula.  The large green playing field was a great place for thousands to gather and cheer on August 31, 1957 when, at midnight, the British flag was lowered for the last time and the Malay flag was hoisted as the country gained its independence.  At that time the new state was called Malaya; the name of the nation was changed to Malaysia in 1963 to mark the joining of the peninsula with the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo and Singapore (although Singapore stayed in the federation for only two years).  

Now the square has been paved, with a rather underwhelming and obviously unpopular (I only saw about four people other than staff down there when I went down to enjoy the air conditioning) shopping center and a much more popular parking garage below ground.  A 95-meter tall flagpole stands at one end, one of the highest in the world, and many of the colonial buildings now hold miscellaneous small museums.  The buildings were nice and I got a few good pictures, particularly of the Sultan Abdul Samad building with the skyscrapers behind, and, through a gap, the gleaming spires of the famous Patronas Towers.  My main memory of the square, though, is heat and light.  I felt like I was being baked alive, squinting around the vast pavement with the noonday sun beating down with no obstacle.  I was glad to get back among the buildings where at least there are occasional shadows and awnings and such.  


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