Samarinda is a city of surprises. For many travellers the capital of East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, remains an enigma. Far-removed from any tourist trails, superficially at least it has very little to offer.
Until, of course, the traveller catches sight of Samarinda. Typically they’ll enter via the east over the Mahakam River. A thick canopy of trees obscures the horizon but soon the city explodes into view. The water beneath the bridge is thick and brown and uninviting. A swirling morass. However, this is not what draws the traveller’s attention.
That privilege belongs to one of Southeast Asia’s largest masjids. Samarinda Islamic Center Mosque, also known as Baitul Muttaqien, dominates the city’s skyline. Even from afar its scale is impressive. As wandering eyes scan the cityscape they’ll catch its seven distinct minarets; hugging the churning river below, this is one of the region’s most underrated sights. Against the backdrop of a setting sun it is said to take on supernatural qualities.
Move closer and the building’s details reveal themselves, as does its height. Fifteen floors and 99 metres high, with striking golden decals, the mosque acts as Samarinda’s heartbeat. The city is the building as much as the building is the city. Such is the effect of Samarinda’s mighty masjid.