Wed, 13 September 2023
This year, Malaysia celebrates its 66th year of independence from colonial rule in a very renewed and aspiring mood. A beautiful nation with a deep history of perseverance, Malaysia is blessed with abundance of natural resources, strong cultural roots and an eclectic pot of multi-cultural diversity with profound racial harmony.
Firmly back on its feet again after an unprecedented health, social and economic impact of the Covid19 pandemic, Malaysia was quick and fast to bound forward after its strong implementations of lockdowns, movement restrictions, followed with strong and sound stimulus packages to combat and mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic.
This is evident when Malaysia’s trade surplus in June 2023 registered a double-digit growth of 11.3 percent year-on-year and was the 38th consecutive month of trade surplus since May 2020.
The exemplary fighting spirit shown by the Malaysians is no surprise if one were to examine carefully the history of the nation’s struggles. Malaysia is the only country in the world to have successfully defeated and defended itself not once, but twice, from the communist insurgencies; first during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and then the Second Malayan Emergency (1968-1989).
The formation of Malaysia as an independent nation is nothing short of aspiring. Malaysia gained its independence from the British rule on August 31, 1957 which is now a sacred date for all Malaysians to celebrate. It will be followed by Malaysia Day on September 16 which marks the date when the peninsular Federation of Malaya merged with the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.
About 500 years before that, the country through its busy and economically thriving port city of Malacca was the epicentre of the global trade, bridging the West and the East. The Straits of Malacca was the shortest shipping route between Far East and the Indian Ocean and during the 16th century, Malacca developed into the most important trading port in Southeast Asia, inviting Arab, Indian, Chinese and European traders before the Portuguese conquered Malacca and ended the Malay rule in 1511. This was followed by the Dutch rule in 1641 before the British started to show its interest in 1795.
Tourism and Emerging Medical Tourism
Malacca today has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique cultural and architectural history. While Malaysia has always been known for its tourism and constantly being the top of mind amongst many holidaymakers, the focus is now on new areas of tourism including medical tourism and hospital services that provide high-quality, accessible and affordable health services at the highest level.
Malaysia was able to attract 10 million tourists in the year 2022, with an income of USD6 billion, and Malaysia aims to receive 16.1 million international tourists and achieve USD10.6 billion this year through attracting more tourists this year. As for the Arab tourists visiting Malaysia, Saudi Arabia registers the highest number of tourists, while being the highest spender with the longest stay during vacations. This is followed by those from Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.
Modern Muslim Nation Alongside Other Major Religions
A common finding amongst the questions posed to Middle East tourists to Malaysia was the fact that almost all of them find (and fall in love with!) the fact that Malaysia is a modern and sophisticated country. While Islam is the official religion constitutionally, it has always been regarded as non-imposing and being a Muslim-friendly country to visit.
Malaysia places a strong focus on the comfort and convenience of its Muslim citizens and visitors with mosques and musollas can be found almost everywhere in the country and most public venues have abundant prayer facilities. Almost all the eateries in the country serve halal cuisines too.
The second biggest religion in Malaysia is Buddhism (around 18.7 percent of the population when compared to 63.5 percent Islam) and the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia is the Kek Lok Si temple that stands as the symbol of Chinese Buddhism on top of the hill at Air Itam near the beautiful Penang Island in Malaysia.
Christianity, the third largest religion in Malaysia was first introduced to the Malay Archipelago by Arab, Persian Turkish Christian traders from the 7th century. Catholicism was introduced by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century, while Dutch colonialist introduced Protestantism in the 17th century.
Hinduism has a strong prevalent too in Malaysia (6.3 percent of the total population). At 43m tall, the statue of Lord Murugan is the second tallest Murugan statue in the world and every year during the celebration of the Thaipusam festival, almost one million Hindus gather during which devotees converge and bear offerings that they carry up 272 steps from the foot of the cave temple. A magnificent sight to behold indeed.
Multicultural and a Peaceful Friendly Nation
Malaysia is known worldwide for its hospitality and for being a melting pot of Asia's well-diverse community. Malaysia's diversity in culture makes it one of the few countries with hundreds of celebrations and festivals all year-round and definitely a food haven with various unique delicacies. Visitors, expatriates and international students will also gain a global perspective on working, interacting and living with people from different cultures.
To top that, from food, travelling to transportation as well as the tuition fees for students, Malaysia offers a reasonable cost in many areas. In fact, Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, is ranked #1 in Southeast Asia in the Affordability indicator and is among the countries with the lowest Cost-of-Living index in Southeast Asia, at only 39.25. In 2022, BBC stated that Malaysia is known for its friendliness, being one of Asia’s most friendly and tolerant countries and according to 2022 Global Peace Index (GPI), Malaysia is ranked 18th in the world in providing visitors a safe and secure environment for their journey.
Malaysia and Bahrain
Bilateral relations between Malaysia and Bahrain were established in 1974. In fact, next year marks the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Malaysia and Bahrain. The Malaysian Embassy in Manama was established in September 2003. The fifth ambassador of Malaysia to the Kingdom of Bahrain, HE Shazryll Zahiran, states: “Unity is the key to Malaysia’s stability and prosperity and is the source of strength for us to face any current and future challenges”.
“While we are happy that we are celebrating our nation’s 66th birthday, we are equally excited and looking forward to marking the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Bahrain, and have been planning many exciting plans and programmes that can further strengthen our already very strong diplomatic bond,” concludes HE Shazryll Zahiran.