Most foreign tourists visiting the center are from Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East, China, and European countries.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) has every element and facility to support its aspirations to become a world-class Halal tourism destination.

The province, with a Muslim-majority population, has been blessed with scenic natural beauty in the form of white sandy beaches, crystal-clear seas, and mountain, among others.

Lombok, one of the two major islands in NTB, was adjudged the best halal tourism and honeymoon destination during the World Halal Travel Awards 2015 held in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, in October 2015.

The NTB administration has hoped these awards would serve as a starting point to seriously develop Lombok as a halal tourism destination.

The awards have instilled a sense of pride and optimism in the NTB administration to promote its tourism attractions nationally and internationally to lure more domestic and foreign tourists, particularly Muslims, who want to enjoy halal or Shariah tourism.

Some 65 percent of the 4.7 million population of NTB lives in Lombok and up to 93 percent of them are Muslims.

Lombok Island, one of the two major islands of NTB, is also called "One Thousand Mosque Island". Taufan Hidjaz, a researcher and author of a book entitled "Lombok, Land With Thousands of Mosques", wrote that 518 villages on Lombok Island have some 9,000 mosques.

The NTB provincial capital of Mataram has a large Islamic Center called the Hubbul Wathan Islamic Center and Grand Mosque, which has now become an icon of Halal tourism in the province.

Hubbul Wathan Grand Mosque, located in the NTB Islamic Center, is the largest and most beautiful one in the province. The mosque`s minaret stands 114 meters tall.

The NTB Islamic Center was designated as a religious tourism destination by the provincial administration, M. Zakiy Mubarok, general secretary of the NTB Alumni Corp of the Muslim University Student Association, noted in Mataram recently.

Under the leadership of Governor Dr Zainul Majdi, NTB spent some Rp300 billion to build the Islamic Center on a plot of land measuring some six hectares.

The funds came from the NTB regional budget, districts and municipalities in NTB, local inhabitants, and foreign countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan.

The NTB Islamic Center is not only expected to become an Islamic activity center but also an Islamic civilization center in Asia, he added.

Several facilities, such as a museum, schools, and cultural center, are planned to be built within the Islamic Center complex.

In 2016, the Islamic Center, located in the heart of Mataram, hosted the 26th National Quran Recital Contest (MTQ) from July 29 to Aug 6, with some 1.2 thousand participants from 34 provinces.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) opened the MTQ on July 30 during a ceremony held at the NTB Islamic Center that was also attended by some 30 foreign ambassadors.

Worshipers always throng the Grand Mosque, particularly during maghrib, isya, and tarawih prayers.

"Particularly during Ramadhan (Fasting Month) at present, the regional government has invited three Grand Imams from the Middle East to recite Quran during tarawih prayers in the Islamic Center," Mubarok revealed.

During the ongoing Ramadhan that began on May 17, NTB is holding a Wonderful Ramadhan Festival enlivened by an Islamic book bazaar, an Umroh or minor Hajj and travel mart, and Quran recital, among other things.

Visitors from regions across NTB and Indonesia, in general, flocked to the Islamic Center for the festival.

The number of domestic and foreign tourist visits to the Hubbul Wathan Grand Mosque and Islamic Center increases significantly during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadhan.

"Some 300 tourists visit the Islamic Center daily. This figure does not include the visits by local inhabitants of NTB whose number is also as many as those tourists," Aza, a tour guide of the Islamic center, stated recently.

Most foreign tourists visiting the center are from Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East, China, and European countries.

"These tourists, who are with me now, are from European countries, such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Belgium," he remarked.

Domestic tourists opt for a city tour package that includes a visit to the Islamic center, according to Usman, another tour guide.

Most domestic tourists are curious to know about the largest mosque and Islamic center in Mataram, so a visit to the Islamic center and grand mosque is included in the city tour package.


Reporter: Fardah Assegaf
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2018