This is part 4 of the Australia-Indonesia Muslim Exchange Program series
On the day we arrived in Cirebon, we all were given nicknames. Sarah was called Gameelah (Beautiful), whilst I was called “INDIA” because of my cultural background. Umi would bellow out ‘INDIA!!!’ to get my attention. It was hilarious and I’ll never forget it.
Whilst getting a better feel for the city of Cirebon, we visited the grave of Sunan Gunung Jati, a 16th-century ruler of Cirebon. Sarah told me he is one of the nine legendary wali’s who helped to propagate Islam in Indonesia. It a place of worship for pilgrims from all over Java. We sat and joined the recitals and watched on as people entered to sent their salams.
We then went to the town centre, Alun-alun and visited the beautiful At Taqwa mosque. with its distinctive architecture to the rest of the mosques we’ve visited.
Sarah said that “Like many of the mosques we’ve visited here both men and women use the same entrance and enjoy the communal space out front with their families.” We both commented on how amazing the environment created with the mosques here, especially when it comes to accommodating ample space for women.
The next day we were introduced to the wonders of the moving Mie Ayam cart. A man with a small blue cart equipped with a little stove to boil the broth as well as little bottles of sauces parked in front of the Pesantren.
When it was my turn to get the food, I ordered just some greens and noodles in broth, unsure of whether to order ‘street chicken’. He asked me if I wanted a half or full serving. Ordinarily I would always go for a full serving, but as I was unsure of the taste – I ordered half. That was probably one of the top ten worst things I’ve ever done.
It was so good, so tasty and fresh and incredibly delicious. By the time I wanted more, the vendor had disappeared! I regretted my decision for the rest of the week. Never had I had such amazing Mee Goreng. It was one of the highlights of my trip.
Our hosts were Puat, Khotibul Umam, Ibnu and Muhammad wearing their traditional batik patterns of Cirebon.
That evening we went to a Batik making workshop and all had our turn learning such a beautiful ancient artform. It definitely is not as easy as it looks! The hot wax and learning the method was really inspiring. We then went shopping to buy some Cirebon style batik. Two students dressed in their uniform noticed my camera and my general tourist demeanour and shyly asked if they could take a photo.
Before I knew it, there were 50 school girls all wanting to take a photo with me. I felt like a celebrity. They were from Smpt riyadlul ulum waddawah tasikmalaya cibeurem.
We visited NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) Board. A photojournalist was there and snapped a photo of us as a group. Little did we know where the photo would lead to
At the train station, the guard stamped my ticket and moved me on, however when Tasneem’s ticket was stamped – the guard instantly recognised her and held up the Cirebon newspaper with our smiling faces.
It was pretty exciting for us, the guard was kind enough to give us his copy of the newspaper. What a nice way to leave Cirebon.