A shopping mall may not be the most obvious place for saying daytime prayers, but for office worker Eni, praying in a mall has become routine.
Eni, who works near Senayan City shopping center, South Jakarta, often takes time out to attend the mall's mushola, a small place of worship for Muslims.
"It's so clean and spacious. My friend and I often come here to pray after having lunch at the mall," Eni said.
The mushola, which can hold dozens of people, is on the lower ground floor of the mall near the restaurants and cafes.
On entering the mushola, you come to a waiting room with several long brown couches. In one corner of the room, an attendant waits at a shoe deposit counter to take your shoes or sandals.
If you forget to bring your mukena (head-to-toe cloak for women), you can borrow one.
The area for performing ablutions is spacious and the floor is covered with non-slip material. There are also toilets nearby.
The prayer area is furnished with dozens of carpets and bookshelves holding copies of the Koran and other Islamic books.
There is also a dressing table just outside the prayer area for those who want to touch up their makeup.
"I don't have to go to the bathroom to touch up my makeup. The mushola has everything there," Vina, one of the visitors, said.
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation. According to Indonesia statistics in 2005, 88 percent of the country's 221.9 million population are Muslim.
Offices and shopping malls provide musholas to accommodate Muslims' obligation to pray five times a day.
Many malls across the city have established cozy and well-designed musholas in their shopping areas so customers can pray in comfort.
"We've built the mushola on the lower ground floor so people can access it easily. It is also strategic because it's near restaurants and the supermarket," said Sri Ayu Ningsih, Senayan City's public relations and tenant communications manager.
"We have separate rooms for women and men so they feel more comfortable. Each can hold 100 to 150 people.
"We also provide a waiting room, designed like a lounge, for people to wait for their friends or relatives," she said.
The mall has two other musholas in its parking areas, on floors B1 and 6. The mushola on the sixth floor can fit more than 500 people and is usually used for Friday prayers.
Prayer time is always announced in the shopping center, Ayu said.
Plaza Indonesia in Central Jakarta offers a similar mushola concept. It provides mukena and has a shoe deposit counter, waiting room, dressing table and spacious non-slip ablution area.
It also provides a stool in the ablution area for people with disabilities.
The mall has musholas on the third floor and on parking levels P2 and P3.
One visitor, Hesty, who works near the mall, said she often went to the mushola during lunchtime.
"It's clean and cozy. Cleanliness increases my concentration while praying," she said.
Taman Anggrek Mall in West Jakarta provides musholas on parking levels P2, P4, P7 and P10.
One visitor, Lia, who came to the mall to shop, was surprised when she entered the mushola in P10 for prayers at 1 p.m.
"The mushola is so clean and comfortable, and so are the mukena and the carpets. It is also quite spacious," she said.
Unlike the two other malls, in Taman Anggrek Mall women and men pray in the same room, which is divided by separator 2 meters high. The room can hold up to 15 women and 30 men.
It has no attendant for shoes but provides shoe lockers. Mukena and sandals are available for those who want to perform ablutions.
Anastasia Damastuti, public relations and communications assistant for Taman Anggrek Mall, said the musholas were placed in the parking areas to be more easily accessible for customers.
"Two times a week our housekeeping staff take the prayer carpets and mukena to the laundry," Damas said.
Many malls also hold Koran recital sessions, which are usually arranged by mushola organizers called Rohis.
In Taman Anggrek, the Rohis organizes monthly general recital sessions and special women's sessions twice a month.
Plaza Indonesia holds recital sessions four times a week.
"We hold women's sessions three times a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at around noon. The only session for men is on Monday afternoon," Plaza Indonesia's media relations coordinator Titie Ndari said.
She said the women's sessions on Monday and Wednesday were only for mall employees.
Senayan City's Rohis, called the Mosque Management Board, holds a similar session every Tuesday, between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. It takes place on the sixth floor and is open to the public.
"We work with a private television station in organizing the weekly event. We just want to provide the best for our customers," Ayu said.
"Customers can do more than shop at the mall. They can also gain spiritual knowledge." (trw)