The site of the ancient Islamic kingdom of Banten will soon get a new look, complete with facilities to accommodate tourists and pilgrims.
Tubagus Ismetullah Al Abbas, the chairman of the Kingdom's legacy board of caretakers, said that the facilities would be provided by the state-owned operator of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, PT Angkasa Pura II.
'The cultural heritage site will be equipped with toilets and parks, while the square in front of the Grand Mosque will be paved,' Ismetullah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Ismetullah said that the Banten administration had also built a guest house with six bedrooms next to the mosque for pilgrims.
'We highly appreciate other parties paying attention to the cultural site, because financially we have no ability to improve service for the visitors who come seeking God's blessings at the site each day,' Ismetullah said.
'We do understand that it's not easy for the government to distribute funds from the regional budget for such purposes because of the bureaucratic procedures, and therefore we don't expect too much,' Ismetullah added.
The site, located 10 kilometers from Serang, is what remains from the Banten sultanate that ruled West Java from the 12th to the 19th centuries.
Banten Lama remains a favorite destination for pilgrims, who come in groups on weekends and on the days before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan, which will begin in July this year.
Near the mosque is a solid looking eight-sided minaret, a symbol of multiculturalism, as it embodies influences from Javanese, Western and Chinese sources, including a pagoda-like roof and a dome-shaped sundial on one of the walls.
Also used as a lookout post in the past, the minaret is always occupied with visitors willing to climb the 28-meter tall tower to its two viewing galleries.
According to Ismetullah, the large number of visitors to the Grand Mosque area has created problems, triggering an increasing number of vendors who have turned the grounds of the mosque into an informal market, while the lack of lodgings, bathrooms and a limited number of books in the library creating another problem for the pilgrims who are looking for a quiet moment and comfort.
'We will warmly welcome those who help us with the maintenance and the improvement of Grand Mosque,' Ismetullah said, adding that the Yayasan Peduli Lingkungan Banten had found a donor to sponsor repainting the buildings in the complex.
The foundation, which focuses on preserving the province's cultural and heritage sites, invited the oldest paint producer in the country, Paint Pacific, to join the revitalization project.
'We have earmarked some of the company's corporate social responsibility [CSR] funds to help maintain cultural heritage, because we care about cultural heritage, which are commonly not well maintained across the country,' Paint Pacific director Suryanto told the Post.
Suryanto said that Paint Pacific had also helped repaint old buildings at the royal palaces in Surakarta, Central Java, and the work was still ongoing today.
Paint Pacific had also trained hundreds of school dropouts to work as painters, hiring them to do all the work in the cultural heritage repainting program, Suryanto said.