Exploring Jakarta’s Grand Mosque, ‘Istiqlal’ and Cathedral ‘Katedral Katolic’


Bang!     Crash!     Flash!

The wet season has definitely arrived in The Big Durian. So what does this mean for getting Out and About in Jakarta? Months of hibernation is not an option; instead you need to muster up extra motivation, get adventurous and prepare to explore!

Today we take you to two places that work well for a ‘wet day calendar’. These two places are a must visit for anyone new in Jakarta –  and even if you’ve been here a while, they are definitely worth a re-visit. In today’s post we visit Istiqlal, the Grand Mosque of Jakarta and also Jakarta’s ‘Santa Maria Pelindung Diangkat Ke Surga’ which is better known as Katedral Jakarta.

(Ps: Be sure to read right to the bottom of today’s post as we also provide you with our, ‘ajb’s advice for surviving the Wet Season in Jakarta’)

As the Call to Prayer sounds throughout Istiqlal, men move towards the main hall for Jumu’ah (Prayers)

About Istiqlal – Jakarta’s Grand Mosque 

Beautiful architecture is evident at every turn in Istiqlal

Jakarta’s Grand Mosque was named Istiqlal (‘freedom’), to honour the autonomy of Indonesia. Inaugurated in 1978, Istiqlal Mosque took 17 years to construct under the supervision of first President of Indonesia, Sukarno. Interestingly Istiqlal was designed in 1954 by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect from North Sumatra. Silaban’s design was the winning entry in a competition which short-listed 7 final designs.

Consisting of 4 levels, Istiqlal is predominantly made of marble with aluminium detailing and is able to accommodate a congregation of up to 200,000 people, making it South East Asia’s largest mosque. Its impressive dome spans a diameter of 45 metres.

View of Istiqlal from the large open area within the Mosque’s perimeter. This space is divided into sections that are the same dimensions as a traditional prayer mat. This area contributes to Istiqlal’s 200,000 maximum capacity.
The impressive dome in Istiqlal’s Main Hall

Visiting Istiqlal Mosque

Istiqlal is welcoming to non-Muslim visitors. Prior to entering the Mosque, visitors need to adhere to obvious religious expectations including removal of ones’ footwear and the wearing of appropriate attire (see advice below).

Ibu Maria demonstrates how to sound the Bedbug drum, which is made from a continuous cross-sectional piece of timber along with a stretched hide of water buffalo. This drum is traditionally used for the Call to Prayer

Non-Muslim visitors must also be accompanied by a guide, as not all areas are accessible, including the Main Hall area. To view this area, visitors must ascend to the second floor balcony. You can acquire a local guide at the front of the Mosque, or better still, you can use our friendly and informative guide Ibu Maria (meet Maria and find her details below!)

Tips when visiting Istiqlal

Dress modestly – this includes wearing clothing that covers shoulders and legs. Strappy tops are not acceptable (we wore light, long sleeve cotton shirts and 3/4 length trousers)

Pack an extra scarf just in case

Pack socks in a sealed plastic bag (as shoes must be taken off before entering the Mosque). Put back in plastic bag afterwards

Take a water bottle

Take your camera (but avoid flash photography)

Have money ready for a donation (rp50,000 for an individual or rp100,000 for a group donation)

Ideally organise for an experienced guide to take you (see below for Ibu Maria’s details – our Guide recommendation)

Allow 1.5 – 2 hours to fully experience Istiqlal

This traditional instrument, the Kentongan is used to communicate within villages. Different combinations of sounds signal different events

When to Visit Istiqlal

As I mentioned earlier, I have now visited Istiqlal on numerous occasions: once on the weekend, a mid-week visit and most recently for Friday prayers (known as Jum’atan, Jum’ah or Jumuah depending upon where you are in the Muslim world). Each was a different experience – but if you only have time for a one-off visit, I would definitely recommend visiting on a Friday.

It is the requirement of the Islamic faith that followers pray five times each day. First prayer normally occurs around 4am (Shubuh) and final prayer around 7pm (Isya’).
According to the Koran, The Prophet said ‘cleanliness is half of faith’. Before prayer, Wudhu (the ritual of washing before prayer) must occur. Muslims must clean themselves and wear good clothes before presenting themselves before their God.

If visiting on a Friday, it is best to meet your guide at 11am. This will allow you time to view the upper levels of Istiqlal, observe the men as they fulfil the pre- prayer washing ritual (note: it is not considered impolite or disrespectful to view this process), and finally take your place on the second tier balcony for your birds-eye view of Jum’atan. It is a most memorable and moving experience.

The women pray in the second level of the Mosque, with a view to the Main Hall
After the Imam (the holy leader in the Mosque) has concluded the sermon, praying together as a congregation occurs, as shown above

Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta
Jl. Taman Wijaya Kusuma
Sawah Besar, Kota Jakarta Pusat
Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta

The offertory box is pushed along each row. To increase the ease with which it is passed, caster wheels are attached to the bottom of the box

Next stop…. Katedral Jakarta 

About Katedral Jakarta

Katedral Jakarta is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Central Jakarta and is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta. Officially known as Gereja Santa Perawan Maria Diangkat Ke Surga (The Church of Our Lady of Assumption), Katedral Jakarta is located near Merdeka Square and Merdeka Place, directly opposite Istiqlal Mosque.

View of Katedral Jakarta from inside Istiqlal Mosque

Inaugurated and blessed in November 1829, the Cathedral was then renovated in 1859 but collapsed in April 1890.

As it stands today, this Neo-Gothic Cathedral was designed by Pastor Antonius Dijkmans, SJ and was built between 1891 – 1901. It is made from bricks covered with plaster. Its roof is made from teak wood and the three spires are made from iron. Katedral Jakarta was consecrated in 1901 and has since been renovated twice: in 1988 and 2002.

View back towards the Cathedral from the Lourdes-inspired Reflective Garden

The iron spires (Photo supplied by Linda Bashford)
Inside Katedral Jakarta – note the teak ceiling

Tips when visiting Katedral Jakarta

Take a guide. This will maximise your experience.
Dress modestly
Allow 45 minutes – 1 hour to explore the Cathedral and the surrounding gardens, including the reflective garden that is modelled on Lourdes, France.

The Prayer Garden within the grounds of the Cathedral. This garden was based on that in Lourdes, France

When to visit Katedral Jakarta

The is no ‘wrong’ time to visit Katedral Jakarta. If you want some reflective time, then it is best to visit during the week when the Church is at its most quiet.
The first time I visited the Katedral was on a Sunday. It was lovely as we arrived for the final part of Mass. Although it was delivered in Bahasa Indonesia, it was warming to hear the prayers and hymns and see the congregation come together; a congregation so large that the seating spilled out into the adjacent gardens with a screen provided for viewing the proceedings inside.

During our most recent visit (on a Friday), we arrived just as a wedding had concluded and preparations for another were well underway. Visitors were starting to arrive as we departed. The excitement was palpable. We had to restrain ourselves from assisting with the hasty preparations!

Petal-covered aisle (Photo supplied by Linda Bashford)
Elaborate floral candelabra line the aisle in preparation for the wedding procession

Jakarta Catholic Cathedral (Katedral Jakarta)
Jl. Katedral No.7B, Ps. Baru
Sawah Besar, Kota Jakarta Pusat
Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 1

Web: Katedral Jakarta

With Christmas just around the corner, perhaps you are interested in attending a service during Advent, or any other time. For details, check out: http://www.expat.or.id/orgs/religiousservices.html

* Kenalkan Ibu Maria Gusliantine ZK –  Tour Guide Extraordinaire 

Ibu Maria says, “Greetings from Dresden, Germany” (photo supplied by Maria)

Where were you born?
I was born in South Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Can you tell us a bit about your study and background?
I majored in Tourism and my academic title is Master Degree in Tourism. I am single and looking hehehehe…!!!  I became a legal Indonesian Tour Guide in 2000 and I have been an Indonesian Tour Leader since 2006, whereby I accompany Indonesian citizens on their overseas travel.

How did you come to be a tour guide?
It started when I was 12 years old.. One Sunday afternoon we met 2 foreigners that seemed misguided or lost. All of my street soccer friends said that I should go and talk to them. My friends gave me support because they knew I was learning English in my Elementary school so my friends said you are the only one that can speak to them. I tried to talk to them and give them directions to Kota Tua and they seemed to understand me . Since that time I always try to practise my English with foreigners that I met in Gambir area, Kota Tua or Jalan Jaksa as well as the Sarinah area. From that moment I knew what I wanted to be someday..

Ibu Maria chats to young students who attend school within Istiqlal Mosque
A view of Kota Tua’s famous square, Fatahillah from Cafe Batavia

Where is your favourite part of Jakarta? And why?
It is the Old Town part of Batavia, there’s lot of hidden stories in the Old Part of Jakarta and more stories to explore because Old part of Jakarta is unique in its own way. Central Jakarta has a more modern ambience. and South Jakarta is fun with its mix of culture and diversity.

Favourite part of Indonesia? And why?
Central Borneo AKA Kalimantan Tengah as it has unique forests and lots of things to explore including the culture, the river and Orang Utan Conservation. Komodo Island is also a favourite with beautiful beaches and the only place where the Komodo Dragon lives. Sulawesi AKA Celebes is extremely interesting with its unique culture, animals and its people. And East Indonesia .. Ambon, Saparua, Nusa Laoet, Banda and Papua .. one word Beautiful.

What are your favourite 3 places to visit anywhere in the World?
Amsterdam, Prague and Cappadocia, Turkey.

Favourite place to eat in Jakarta
Glodok and Mangga Besar areas in Jakarta Barat. Blok M area in South Jakarta.

What street-style food must every visitor to Jakarta try?
Everyone should try Sate Ayam (chicken satay) from Jl. Sambas in South Jakarta. I also love Soto Ayam from the Sarinah area as well as Yogyakarta Street Food in Blok M Square.

Coffee or tea?

Indonesia is the World’s fourth biggest producer of coffee

Favourite place in Jakarta to sip coffee/tea?
Bakoel Koffie and TakKie in Glodok area for original taste. I only drink black coffee or ice milk coffee

Fatahillah Square, Kota Tua (Old Batavia)

Top 5 things to do/places to explore in greater Jakarta
Glodok Area, Old Town of Batavia, Menteng Area, Monas Area and South parts of Jakarta.

Menteng is one of Jakarta’s most affluent and leafy areas. It is famous for its Colonial style architecture and green spaces

What are your ‘travel essentials?’ (Eg: things you always take with you when you travel).
My Sauce Sambal hehehehe…!

When you’re not travelling, what do you like to do?
I enjoy resting in my house, reading, watching movies, cooking and teaching.

Contact Ibu Maria
+62 813 1087 3474
+62 813 8693 3397

Email: mg.kusama@gmail.com

ajb’s advice for surviving the Wet Season in Jakarta

To maximise the chances of a successful adventure, you will need to time your trips for the earlier part of the day – and return home by mid-afternoon if you can (as this is when most of the storm activity begins).

Pick places to visit that are mostly under cover and are easy to access. If possible, avoid places that are prone to flooding as you may find yourself stuck!

Ensure you have a Plan B route to take incase your intended route becomes obstructed. Your driver will need to think ahead to prepare for this.

Readjust your expectations as to what you can fit in your day. Achieving one ‘task’ or ‘experience’ per day is indeed a ‘success’ – more than this warrants a celebration!

Pack ‘supplies’ in the car including snacks and water incase you get stuck in traffic. Throw in a towel, a light blanket (incase you’re cold with the AC in the car) and a book to read too.

* Kenalkan: let me introduce..

Words: Jo Stevens     Photography: a journey bespoke (or as per photo)


  1. says

    Hi Jo, Really enjoyed your piece on the Mosque – it looks amazing. I loved visiting the blue mosque in Istanbul, it is such a spiritual experience.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hey Fiona! Lovely to hear from you and so glad you enjoyed today’s post. Next time you’re in town, we can visit Istiqlal and Katedral too. 🙂 ps: I hope some day I too get to visit the Blue Mosque in Instanbul.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello there! It’s feedback like this that really inspires us to keep exploring and blogging about our adventures in Jakarta. Thank you for taking the time to write to us. Selamat Tahun Baru! Best wishes,

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