Friday, September 14, 2012
Evoking memories of Diana: Kate makes first visit to mosque - and wears veil and attire like her mother-in-law wore 20 years earlier Read more
In line with religious protocol: Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge take their shoes off before entering the Assyakirin Mosque in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which they visited this morning on the latest stage of their tour of South-East Asia on behalf of the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee
Sensitivity: According to Islamic religious law, all visitors to mosques must remove their shoes and women must cover their hair before entering. Kate wore a pale grey dress by Beulah London with a draped head scarf. The label is run by the couple's friend Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs. She left her £185 nude LK Bennett
heels by the door
Ready to go: Prince William pulls his socks up after removing his shoes, as the Duchess rises from her seat to join him on their guided tour of the city centre mosque
The couple were visiting the Assyakirin Mosque in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, which is the biggest in Malaysia and can host 12,000 for Friday prayers.
It's the royal couple's first visit to a mosque anywhere in the world.
Kate's appearance at the mosque evoked memories of Princess Diana, who displayed similar cultural sensitivity on royal visits to mosques in Egypt and Pakistan.
The late Princess of Wales appeared in an almost identical outfit on a visit to an Egyptian mosque during a tour of Egypt in 1992.
A royal aide said: 'It is the first time that either the Duke and Duchess have visited a mosque. They were keen to do so as it is is an important part of UK culture as well as being the predominant religion here.'
Classic look: Kate's appearance at the mosque echoed that of Princess Diana, who displayed a similar sensitivity while visiting mosques in Egypt, above, and Pakistan
Typical magnetism: Princess Diana visited the Egyptian mosque as part of a royal tour in 1002. Left, a year earlier she is all smiles, dressed in an elegant and demure green dress with a black headscarf, as she visits the great Mogul mosque of Badshahi in Lahore during a tour of Pakistan
As the royal couple climbed the steps of the mosque they were met by Imam of the mosque Ustaz Saiful, director of Islamic religious department Datuk Che Mat Bin Che Ali, chairman of the mosque Syed Abdullah, general manager of facilities Shausudin Ishak and head division development manager Datin Faudziah Ibrahim.
How do you do? The Duchess of Cambridge shakes hands with an official as she arrives for the royal couple's tour of the Malaysian mosque
William first spoke to Datuk Chemat Bin Cheali, saying: 'This is our first time in Kuala Lumpur. It's very nice isn't it.'
Meanwhile Kate made her way down the line-up, smiling and saying 'it's very nice to meet you' with each member of staff in the greeting lineup. Ms Ibrahim presented the duchess with a bouquet of flowers.
The couple then sat down to sign the guest book, with Kate giggling to William 'I should get this right' before she put pen to paper.
As they were guided in to the main prayer area, both were full of questions.
William was overheard asking 'So is this where everyone gathers? When is your biggest service? How many people gather here?' When he was told as up to 12,000 on Fridays, he exclaimed: 'Wow. So many!'
Kate spent most of her time talking to Ms Ibrahim. 'It's so peaceful in here,' she commented.
They spoke for a good five or six minutes, starting on the subject of the architecture and calligraphy in the main prayer room. 'It's really amazing,' Kate said.
When Ms Ibrahim mentioned a mosque in Istanbul which was a former church (called the Sophia Mosque), Kate expressed a lot of interest: 'Have you been to Istanbul? I'd love to go.
'I've heard of the Sophia but I've never been. You're lucky to have been twice. I would really love to go some day. It looks amazing.'
When Ms Ibrahim mentioned that she had been to Edinburgh University for her undergrad and masters, Kate said 'Oh wow, really? Well it's very cold there compared to here,' and the two both covered their mouths giggling.
They then spoke of Prince Charles' interest in Islamic architecture and how Kate had learned from him.
'Both Kate and William had done their research,' Ms Ibrahim later told reporters. 'They knew a lot about Islamic architecture.
'The Duchess really appreciated how everything comes together at the mosque - how we include the architecture, the calligraphy, the comfort and the prayer all in to the one procedure.
'It all links together. She really appreciated that.
'When went to the outer prayer area [which is covered with a glass roof] I explained how we had exposed the skyline to show the Petronas Twin Towers.
'I explained that there is a lot of the senses here and that these elements help those praying focus better and if you are feeling uncomfortable or bored you can look up and see the beautiful towers.
'She laughed when I said that.'
Learning experience: During their tour of the mosque, the first they have visited together, both the prince and his wife were full of questions
Well researched: The duchess spent most of the time during the tour speaking to the mosque's head division development manager Datin Faudziah Ibrahim
Both William and Kate were attentive and eager to learn more about the mosque, which had gone under a $10.2million renovation in 2009 to double capacity from 6,000 to 12,000.
'Well the fans keep it nice and cool,' William joked with one of the mosque members who pointed out the dozens of fans in the area.
Kate said 'it's all so impressive' while one of the guides told her of their plans for another extension.
Before ending their 20 minute visit, William and Kate watched men of the mosque washing their hands and feet and were explained the meaning behind it.
They then sat down at their original starting point to put their shoes back on and leave. 'Mine are easy,' Kate said to William as struggled to get his right foot in.
Modern outlook: The Palace said the royal couple were keen to visit a mosque as Islam is an important part of UK culture and the main religion in Malaysia
Always a gentleman: Prince William hands his wife her shoes and she slips back into them after the conclusion to their mosque tour
The Assyakirin Mosque in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, with the city's iconic Petronas towers
soaring in the background
Miss Ibrahim added after their departure: 'It was an honour to meet them. I was so impressed at how much they knew about Islamic architecture. They really knew their stuff.
'Catherine asked me so many questions that I struggle to even remember them all now. She really liked it when I spoke about how families come together during Ramadan.
'I told her that I often have a lot of family visiting and we will make the most of this area. Do some shopping, go and pray together, then maybe go to the park… She really liked that.
'She said family is very important.
'The Duchess looked beautiful and very appropriate in her outfit. It was a great choice.'
Imam Che Mat Bin Che Ali added: 'They were the perfect guests. William said he wished he could stay longer to see the people arriving for the Friday prayers.
'It is one of the busiest days and we usually reach capacity.'
Afterwards the couple attended a colourful cultural performance at the Kuala Lumpur Central Park, Kate having shed her veil to show her hair tied back.
Crowd pleasers: The Duke and Duchess are met by crowds of royal fans as they arrive for their walkabout at Kuala Lumpur City Centre park
Exotic: Surrounded by dignitaries and beautifully dressed dancers, the royal couple inch their way past crowds
Pressing the flesh: Kate shakes hands with a well-wisher
Everyone wants a picture: Members of the public train hundreds of cameras on the duke and duchess as they attend a cultural event at the park
Mobbed: Kate looks a little unnerved but her husband keeps smiling as they are surrounded by well-wishers. Crowds of more than 10,000 turned out to catch a glimpse of the royal couple
The couple were met by screaming crowds of more than 10,000 at the nearby park, which sits in the shadow of the city's Petronas Twin Towers - the world's tallest skyscrapers until they were surpassed by Taipei 101 in 2004.
Families had been waiting in the 30C heat since 7am to meet the Duke and Duchess, and many were squashed up against railings by the heaving mass of people behind them.
They had brought Union flags, flowers, banners saying 'Welcome' and 'We love you Kate and William', and some had even written the Duchess letters or brought Royal Wedding magazines for the couple to sign.
Carnival atmosphere: As the duke and duchess wandered around the Kuala Lumpur park they were treated to a colourful cultural performance
Well coiffed: Kate shed her veil on arrival at the city centre park to reveal her hair tied back in an elegant knot
Here, have this: The Duchess of Cambridge meets well-wishers and appears to give away flowers as she walks past the crowds
School friends Ella Morris, seven, Amelia Thesiger, seven, and her sister Izzy, 10, who all go to International Alice Smith School, spoke to Kate. The duchess asked them: 'Are you squashed?'
Amelia and Izzy's mother Jo Thesiger said: 'We got down here early because the girls were so exited to see them.
'She was so lovely in the flesh, really pretty.'
The couple walked round a circle-shaped area of the park, where they stopped to watch colourful performances by traditional Malaysian musicians, dancers and a fashion show showcasing the work of Malaysian designers.
Kate said of one musician playing a string instrument: 'They must have really strong fingers.' Turning to William she said: 'You should have a go', but the Duke declined to join in.
Showcase: The couple walked round a circle-shaped area of the park, where they stopped to watch colourful performances by traditional Malaysian musicians, dancers and a fashion show showcasing the work of Malaysian designers
The British contingent: Ex-pats advertise their presence with Union flag umbrellas as they await the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Royal duties: Prince William eagerly shakes hands with well-wishers fans snap photos in their mobile phones
and pocket cameras
On their way round they made a beeline for a girl with a Welsh flag. Elin Howells, 14, is originally from Anglesey but has lived in Kuala Lumpur with her parents Chris and Fiona for eight years.
She was so excited to see the royal couple she was shaking after their meeting. 'They saw my flag and came over and said "Bore Da" which is "Good Morning" in Welsh,' she said.
'They asked us which part of Wales we were from and when we said Anglesey they said "Oh, the same place as us".
'It was unbelievable to see them, they were so lovely.'
The couple also stopped to talk to a group of expats including Lynn Maitland, 40, originally from Aberdeen. 'They were asking us who we were and we told them we're expat wives,' Mrs Maitland said.
'William said, "I like it that your husbands are all at work and you are here".
'I was surprised at how tall he was in the flesh. Kate was beautiful. She said she was finding it awfully hot.'
Urban: The park sits in the shadow of Kuala Lumpur's famous Petronas Twin Towers which were, until 2004, the world's tallest skyscrapers
At the end of the walkabout the Duke and Duchess were presented with flowers from children including two girl guides.
Cerys Howells, 10, said: 'I gave Kate a scarf and she said I could keep it.
'When I said it was for her she asked me if I had a spare and when I said I did she said "Thank you very much".'
Later there was a security incident when a local Malay fan tried to get into the couple's car to take a picture of them as they prepared to leave the park. The man was bundled away by police and handcuffed.