Malaysia today

Muna Al FuzaiMuna 

Malaysia is known to us in the Gulf as a preferred destination for newlywed couples. But this beautiful county is appropriate for everyone, including those who seek medical treatment and physical therapy. So what makes Malaysia different from London, Paris or Dubai, for instance? A weeklong trip to Malaysia brought the answer.

I received a generous invitation through the Malaysian Tourism Program to participate in a trip to Malaysia with a media and tourism group from Kuwait. The flight was sponsored by Oman Air and supported by the Malaysian ambassador in Kuwait. This journey was an opportunity for learning and time passed quickly.

The first question for me was whether I needed a visa. Kuwaitis generally do not need a visa and I think most Arabs can easily get a visa, as the embassy staff is very helpful. They are all tourism ambassadors of their country. I did not have much information about Malaysia, but I tried to read up before traveling. My basic interest was over its customs, culture, governance and development.

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia, with 13 states and three federal territories. This type of administration in ruling a country was strange to me because I come from a different cultural background. But it is an exceptional process – beautiful and acceptable for the people there. They are a people of multicultural origins, but they all meld in despite the religious differences. It is indeed a peaceful coexistence.
The Malaysian Embassy here provided me with many useful brochures about Malaysia, and I encourage those who wish or plan to travel there to read about the customs and history of this country. The trip was wonderful, fun, relaxing and very informative.

 In Malaysia, Islam is a value, a moral and behavior

The flight was comfortable except for one unpleasant incident that killed my enthusiasm immediately after arrival at Kuala Lumpur via Muscat. I couldn’t find my bag, so I spent an hour waiting and searching, until the mystery was solved – my bag was left behind at Muscat airport. But the situation was handled professionally and very quickly by the head of staff of the Oman Air office at Kuala Lumpur airport.

They sent my bag immediately on another plane to arrive the next day at my hotel in the capital. It was an amazing effort. I know that such incidents can happen any time, but dealing with the situation with the professionalism and seriousness that I saw is rare. I thanked them a hundred times and continued the journey with my colleagues gladly.

I commenced the trip with a short and distinguished meeting with the Kuwaiti ambassador in Malaysia. I was very impressed with the activities of the envoy and his constant attempt to strengthen cultural ties between Kuwait and Malaysia through various cultural gatherings hosted for senior Malaysians at home. The trip to Malaysia included multiple visits to many beautiful hotels, museums and sites to learn more about the country and its culture, because it is far away from us. What we know about it is too little and this is not fair, because it is such an amazing place to see.

Penang island is a place where you feel the history and art. The Sunway Lagoon theme park is a place for adventure. It is connected to the fabulous Sunway Resort and Spa to continue living the dream. The visit was not political, but a tour of the capital and some areas are enough to understand the country and investors’ efforts.

Malaysia is a country with lush nature, and as I come from the desert, I greatly appreciate the color green. The Malaysians are very nice people – polite and open to strangers and visitors. I came across saleswomen who were able to guess where I was from. One said Makkah. They may not know much about the region, but surely know and love Makkah. They say it proudly and happily, and I felt good about this. The Malay Muslims are religious and conservative in general. They love Islam perhaps more than many Muslims whom I deal with, who feel ashamed of being Muslims. In Malaysia, you see young girls wearing headscarves as part of living modestly. Performing prayers on time seems important as well.

Malaysians are proud Muslims, and everyone practices their rituals with joy and happiness without fanaticism. In Malaysia, Islam is a value, a moral and behavior. I have visited Muslim countries where I have seen Islam, but only in name, with a few mosques. Malaysia represents moderate Islam, from which we must learn to live and progress.

I know that Malaysia is a country that faces difficulties in the administrative aspect, like many countries today, but this has not prevented the government from supporting touristic campaigns to present Malaysia as a destination that is open to everyone from around the world. It is indeed a country worth visiting.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
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