Malaysia attracted over 170,000 visitors from the Gulf countries in 2013, and has been rated the world’s top Muslim-friendly holiday destination in a survey released last year.
According to figures, Malaysia received 102,365 tourists from Saudi Arabia in 2012. The total number of tourists from the UAE was 18,233 during this period.
During the first half of 2013 (January to June), Malaysia received over 53,000 visitors from the Kingdom. In addition, the country also received more than 14,500 visitors from Oman, 9,390 from Kuwait and 7,804 from UAE during the same period.
This Asian country with a 60 percent Muslim population mostly attracts Muslim tourists worldwide and has been a frontrunner with regards to anything halal. The country can be divided into two: Peninsular Malaysia with its amazing cities, forested highlands and fringing islands, and east Malaysia, north of the island of Borneo with its dense rain forests, orangutans and animist tribes. Geographically, Malaysia is almost as diverse as its culture. 11 states and 2 federal territories (Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya) form Peninsular Malaysia which is separated by the South China Sea from East Malaysia which includes the 2 states (Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo) and a third federal territory, the island of Labuan.
Malaysia’s policy for the tourism sector is to ensure a comfortable environment to all Muslims family tourists in line with its Islamic lifestyle. Moreover, the Malaysian government bans any activities that violate Islamic laws to let Arab tourists feel that they are in a Muslim country. At the same time, the government is careful to prove the country has a halal tourism sector targeting a large number of tourists from Arab Gulf countries.
The road to Kuala Lumpur (KL):
Kuala Lumpur is the biggest city of Malaysia and one of the top ten most visited cities. It is not surprising to find a wide range of hotels there to suit all budgets, ranging from international luxury class hotels, medium range hotels and the hotels for the truly budget conscience traveler. This is apart from the numerous youth hostels that are tucked away behind the backstreets of Bukit Bintang shopping district.
In addition, there is also the homestay program where visitors can really experience what genuine Malaysian hospitality is all about, amid the tranquil countryside, by staying in a Malay village.
For the convenience of weary travelers, there are two international class hotels in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). They are the Concorde Inn KLIA and the Pan Pacific KLIA. Both are within 5 minutes of walking distance from the arrival hall. The Concorde Inn KLIA is a 5-Star 338-room hotel with four types of rooms. There are “Superior” rooms, “Deluxe” rooms, “Executive” and “Suites.
The Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur International Airport is another 5-Star hotel located near the main terminal of KLIA. The Pan Pacific KLIA makes a great place to unwind after a long and tiring journey. The facilities here are top class and in fact the Pan Pacific KLIA is also the first hotel in Asia to ever use a Digital Food and Beverage Menu.
When you journey to Kuala Lumpur from KLIA, you will enjoy the green areas and farms on either side of the road. Kuala Lumpur has a tropical rainforest climate which is warm and sunny, along with abundant rainfall, while temperatures tend to remain constant around the year.
A lot of tourists especially from Arab countries prefer to stay in Hotel Istana which is located near Bukit Bintang also known as “Arab Street.” Rooms at Hotel Istana are fully air conditioned and feature large windows overlooking the scenic cityscape of Kuala Lumpur. Each room is equipped with a cable satellite TV, tea and coffee making facilities and free wired Internet.
In addition, the well-equipped fitness center features a personal trainer, as well as yoga and salsa classes. Guests may also relax with massage treatments and a spa bath at Sompoton Spa. Urban Restaurant also offers an Asian and International menu, while Taman Sari Brasserie serves Malaysian buffet-style dishes. Drinks may be enjoyed at The Sports Bar or Songket Lounge. Fresh cakes and bread are also available at The Deli.
The location of Hotel Istana helps Arab tourists to visit Arab Street which includes a lot of Arab restaurants and cafes. The street is also a commercial center including many stores for shopping. Arab Street is packed with tourists from July to September when many tourists from Arabia come to Malaysia for vacation. Many Arabs flee their countries during that period to avoid the burning temperatures in the Middle East. Ain Arabia is also a haven for Middle Eastern food lovers.
There are a number of restaurants which serve Arabian cuisine such as the Sahara Tent Restaurant which is located at Hotel Fortuna Kuala Lumpur. The attractions at Ain Arabia were initially intended for the foreign tourists but now this place is frequently visited by many locals as well.
If you would like to bite into some really good authentic Arabian food and experience the Middle Eastern lifestyle without having to travel to the Middle East, come on over to Ain Arabia. There are other attractions around Ain Arabia since it is so close to Bukit Bintang.
This street is also near the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur which is a shopping mall. It was built on the former site of Bukit Bintang Girls School, the oldest school in Kuala Lumpur. It was opened on Sept. 20, 2007 and consists of four major components: a retail mall, an office tower, two residential and a proposed hotel.
There are several fashion and luxury goods boutiques that encompass a large portion of the mall’s retail floor area. Several eateries and cafés also exist in the shopping mall like fast food restaurants and coffee chains. Anchor stores include Parkson and the Singaporean departmental store.
Best malls in KL:
Kuala Lumpur has the best shopping experiences where bargains can be found. There are 5 top favorites for the best malls in the city. Suria KLCC which is an extravagant mall is located directly underneath the Petronas Twin Towers building, which was formerly the world’s tallest building.
It’s a 6-story mall, which includes many of the top designer brands from both Asia and Europe. During the year, prices are quite high, but during the annual Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival held in August, you will see prices slashed up to 80 percent. Bargains here during sale times are some of the best in Kuala Lumpur, especially because you’re getting high-end items for a great price.
Also, there is Bukit Bintang and Sungei Wang Plaza which are technically two malls right next to each other and connected in various places throughout the two buildings. They are right next to the hotel I stay at, so I spend a lot of time here. They are also right next to the monorail that originates at the main train station, so are easy to get to.
Berjaya Times Square. Billed as one of Asia’s largest shopping malls, Berjaya Times Square is truly huge. Its many floors seem to stretch up to the skies, and the view from the ground floor up is breathtaking. This is also the shopping mall where contestants from the Amazing Race Asia rappel down to the ground floor from the eighth floor: scary stuff.
One Utama is a bit out of the way, as it’s in a residential area of KL outside the city. I took the train to the Kelana Jaya LRT stop and then got off and took a taxi, which got me there in an additional 7 minutes or so. One Utama has 6 floors and around 600 shops. It’s known for its tropical indoor rainforest with many species of tropical plants and flowers. Here you can get something to eat or drink at one of the delightful cafes and restaurants in the rainforest. It also has a great kid’s entertainment section and a bowling alley, rock climbing arena and movie theater.
Mid-Valley Mega Mall is the most popular mall in the city, which you can easily get to by taking a bus from KLCC right to its doorstep. It is anchored by several large department stores or megamarts including Jusco, Carrefour and Metrojaya. It also has a few hundred other stores, two hotels, a large bookstore and several enormous food courts. Add a bowling alley, Kuala Lumpur’s largest cinema complex, an amusement arcade and over 100 places to eat, and you could spend all day and night here.
Safari Lagoon Rooftop Water Theme Park is one of the most unique tourist attractions in the country. Safari Lagoon Rooftop Water Theme Park is located on the 7th floor of Pandan Safari Lagoon Shopping Complex. It covers about 2 acres and is able to hold around 3,000 people. Once inside, never-ending fun follows. You can leave your child inside the theme park while you continue your shopping. The place is adorned with lots of animal sculptures and verdant sceneries to maintain the safari look of the theme park.
Desa WaterPark is a genuine family entertainment water park filled with exciting and thrilling facilities. It boasts of having the longest Master Blaster in all of Asia called the “Thunderbolt.” With plenty of regular water slides and three wave pools, it is understandable why the locals love this place so much. Desa WaterPark occupies about 5 hectares of space to provide fun under the sun with its 12 water rides. A perfect place to spend special occasions, the water park is complete with food stalls, lockers, restrooms, an amphitheater and a souvenir shop.
Istana Budaya is considered to be one of the most sophisticated theaters, and is consistently voted as one of the world’s top 10 theaters. It primarily serves as a venue for the performing arts with a seating capacity of 1,469.
One of the unique attributes of Istana Budaya is that it has four adjustable stages which can be moved depending upon the requirements of the show. Aside from the regularly featured performances, the building itself is a wonderful attraction which displays intricate Malay architecture. Istana Budaya is one of the country’s most prominent landmarks and you will surely enjoy your time adoring its structure or spending the night with a date watching a featured performance.
Originally published on www.arabnews.com