What an Exquisite Deli!

Asia, Indonesia

The Grand Mosque

If you think this is a post about food or culinary thing, this is not. You can stop reading now.

No, I’m kidding. Please continue reading but when I said that this is not a post about food, I mean it (I thought some of you might have mistaken the title because of the word ‘deli’). In fact, this is a brief history about a once wealthy sultanate in North Sumatra called Deli.

In the 19th century, a sultanate in North Sumatra emerged as one of the wealthiest monarchies in the region, largely owing to Sultan Mahmud Al Rasyid’s (the reigning sultan at that time) decision to give the Dutch the right to manage and cultivate land in Deli. The Dutch, with better knowledge and resources in land cultivation than the locals, decided to plant tobacco on the given land. It turned out that Deli tobacco was highly favored by Europeans, hence soaring its price at the world’s tobacco market in Bremen, Germany. This had led to the booming of investment in Deli, especially in tobacco plantation.

During its heyday, Medan as the capital of the Sultanate of Deli witnessed rapid construction, particularly royal palaces. The most exquisite of all, Maimoon Palace, was built in the late 19th century based on a design from a Dutch architect, T.H. van Erp, a captain at Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army). Adorned with Malay and European architectural features, Maimoon Palace not only served as the sultan’s palace, but also a Malay and Islamic cultural center.

However after the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia, all powers possessed by local kings and sultans were forcefully ceded to the central government, leaving only one monarch which still retains its power until today, the Sultan of Yogyakarta — head of the Special Region of Yogyakarta in Java, due to its past active involvement to support Indonesia’s independence. Currently the Sultanate of Deli still exists with hereditary rulers just like it used to be. Nevertheless, it merely is now a cultural symbol of North Sumatra’s Malay heritage.

Istana Maimoon (Maimoon Palace)

The Façade of The Palace

The Throne Hall

A Close-Up Look at The Throne

A Highly Ornate Window

Sultanate of Deli’s Coat of Arms

Intricate Ceiling

More on The Ceiling

Emblem of The Sultanate

Alternate Emblem

Ornaments of A Cupboard Inside The Palace

Gilded Flower Near The Throne

As a Muslim state, the Sultanate of Deli also built mosques all over its territory. However, the largest and most beautiful one is Al Mashun Mosque, or much well-known as The Grand Mosque (see the first image on this post). Located only 200 m from Maimoon Palace, The Grand Mosque was the state’s mosque where the sultan and other members of the royal family went for Friday prayer or other occasions. Originally the mosque was planned to be built around the same time with the construction of Maimoon Palace. However, since van Erp was then assigned to assist the restoration of Borobudur Temple in Java, a new architect was appointed to design the mosque. Adolf J. Dingemans, the newly appointed architect, created a design for the mosque combining the elements of Arabic, Indian, Spanish and Malay architecture. Upon its completion, the mosque was also embellished with stained glass from China and Italian marble.

First used in 1909, The Grand Mosque has never undergone any restoration which it desperately needs. A restoration plan was actually made by the North Sumatran government. However, many experts and cultural leaders opposed to the plan as it would damage its original artistic and cultural values. I just hope another better and more proper plan is being prepared at the moment so that this beautiful heritage would still stand for generations to come.

The Grand Mosque’s Dim Yet Beautiful Interior

Decorative Patterns Under The Dome

A Six-Pointed Star – Quite Unusual In Islamic Architecture

The Podium from Which A Preacher Delivers His Preaching

Podium Close-Up – Marble Stairs

Podium Close-Up – Gilded Dome

Fading Patterns on The Wall

Old Lamp

High Ceiling on The Mosque’s Corridor

Related Post: Medan: Unexpectedly Interesting

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

28 thoughts on “What an Exquisite Deli!”

  1. Pingback: Medan: Unexpectedly Interesting « What an Amazing World!

  2. What beautiful pictures, Bama! You got a lot of great captures on the ornaments and architectural details. As readers we can easily get a sense of the opulence inside Istana Maimoon. As for the Great Mosque, does it really need to be renovated? It seems to be in very good shape. There are a some features – the horseshoe arches, for instance – that definitely remind me of the Moorish architecture of Southern Spain.


    • Thanks James! I myself was quite surprised of how opulent Istana Maimoon is. However since some of the royal family members still reside in the palace, visitors are only allowed to go to the throne hall, a smaller room behind it and the front corridors.
      Well, the mosque does look like in good shape. But some of the stained glass have been missing or broken. The entire wall also needs a repaint to light up the ambiance. Those arches also remind me of pictures of Moorish architecture! Oh I’m dreaming of Spain now.


  3. “Exquisite” really is the only suitable word for this place! The marble, the gilding, the patterns… simply beautiful. Was it at all… eerie, in person?


    • Hi Meghan! I was quite astonished with all the patterns, furniture and every little detail too. Although it’s not the most opulent place I’ve ever been to (European palaces are still the best) but it’s definitely worth a visit. It was not eerie at all actually (probably because that time I was not the only visitor there). But at night it might get a little too silent I guess.


      • Interesting! I’m not sure why, but I find places like that, of abandoned opulence, to be a little creepy. Like they’re full of stories (or maybe ghosts), haha.


      • Well, they might! I just can’t (don’t want to) see and feel them 🙂


  4. Stunning photos Bama! The Istana Maimoon looks beautiful. Love the details that you have captured so well! Like James,I too wondered if the grand mosque really needed restoration!


    • Thanks Madhu! I just love taking pictures of details 🙂 Well, I didn’t take the pictures of the crumbling parts of the mosque. But after a century, a renovation would bring back its former glory (at least in appearance), wouldn’t it?


  5. Hey Bama! Man you never fail to impress me with all the places you’ve been and your ability to photograph them so that it feels like your readers where right there with you. I love the way you composed a lot of these photographs so perfectly– how evenly composed the ceiling photographs are, the emblems, etc. Overall, very well done and well written post. Also: nice new blog theme 😛

    Keep it up!
    – Nate


    • Hey Nate! Thanks a lot for your compliment! But I keep learning anyway. Btw I just returned from Laos and I think you’re going to love the country! Will write on that later. Again, thanks for your encouragement!


  6. These are great (always hard and a pain for me to do architecture photos), and thanks for taking the time for back story too. That’s quite amazing that it still looks like this, if nothing has been done since 1909!
    PS–I thought that it was a typo, for Delhi… and thought, he couldn’t have, and doesn’t look quite like anywhere in Delhi 🙂


    • Well, I had to take several pictures actually. So, yeah, it took a lot of efforts! 🙂
      Haha, I just realized that Deli and Delhi sound similar. But oh, you remind me of how much I want to go to India!


  7. cooktocure says:

    Simply Stunning! Thank you for enabling my entry into that exquisite Mosque. Cheers! ~ Hoda


  8. Pingback: Medan’s Chinese Heritage | What an Amazing World!

  9. Lydia says:

    Thanks for your posts on Medan! Read both and its very informative! The pictures you provided are also great in quality! 🙂

    I read some reviews about the Palace on TripAdvisor and some people were not too happy with their experience there. It seemed to some like a place just to rent some costumes and take some pictures.


    • Hi Lydia. I went back to Medan a few months ago to revisit the palace and mosque. Indeed, a lot of people dressed up and had their photographs taken. But the palace itself is just a short walk away from the mosque, so it won’t hurt to spend a little time there. Plus, you can also learn a little bit history of the Deli Sultanate.
      Thank you for reading! 🙂


  10. Rena says:

    I went to Maimoon Palace but I didn’t remember it being as impressive as your pictures! (by the way, I was one of those gullible souls who willingly paid to get my pictures taken while wearing the costume, hahaha)


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