Alhamdulillah, our recent one week trip to Sydney was a memorable one. I can’t summarize the many places of interest, acknowledging forthright the futility of finding the words to capture our children’s thrill during the visit. But the following is just to offer a glimpse of the memories we had. You will have to ask our kids of their personal holiday experience!
My Advance Mediation Course in Australia was the catalyst for us to take this trip, which my family had longed to do. The course content was an excellent refresher by the Accord Group, building on the skills we acquired in the basic Mediation course held in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. The trip was also an opportunity for me to take some time off my hectic schedule in Kuala Lumpur while contributing partly towards the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Malaysia’s on going initiatives to meet Malaysian students abroad and share important contemporary issues related to Islam and Shariah law in Malaysia. It was due to our president – Dato’ Hj. Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar’s untiring initiatives that we were able to realize this trip. As I was unable to commit myself to the earlier schedule of meeting students in Melbourne, we had to fly directly to Sydney and spent time vacationing before the talk for Malaysian students and the course.
Our arrival at the Sydney International Airport was early Friday morning. As we were allowed to check-in only in the afternoon, we decided to drop our luggage at Westin Sydney (about 20 minutes or so from the airport), took a walk and, running mostly on adrenaline, strolled around the Circular Quay. Apart from watching the breathtaking views of the Sydney Bridge and Sydney Opera House from the Circular Quay, our children enjoyed watching the tame birds at the dock (I think those were a type of sea gulls), Australian aboriginal street performers and had brunch on the dock. We then returned to our hotel, checked in and showered (some of us napped!).
The next opportunity we took the hop-on hop-off bus back into Sydney, where we learnt about the clean and beautiful city in a day. It was exciting as the bus service allowed us to hop on and off at various points and really get to see the place. It was interesting to see the mix of old and new buildings right next to each other. Many of the names of streets and significant places in Sydney are somewhat similar to those in London.
On Saturday we went to the Sydney Fish Market, acclaimed as the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and second largest outside Japan. It is located by the shores of the harbor at Pyrmont. We could find a big choice of fish, oysters and lobsters, but it was unfortunate though that the salmon sashimi sold there was not very tasteful as the ones I have always had. But I guess it was a good lunch for the rest of us as they had a wide variety of fresh seafood on offer.
I think the highlight of our children’s excursion was the visit to Taronga Zoo. It was indeed an exhilarating experience and especially for the kids they had their first sight of koalas and wombats. There were kangaroos too but apart from their larger size they looked the same as their counterparts in our own Zoo Negara. Taronga zoo’s green landscape with excellent views of dazzling Sydney Harbor are filled with many animals from around the world, but I was looking forward to see the peculiar Australian creatures: wallabies, platypuses, kangaroos, and koala. I remember reading and re-reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica series when I was young and remained utterly fascinated by all the strange Chysalid-animals found in Australia. It was only during this visit with the children that I was finally able to see them.
Taronga Zoo is about 15-minutes ferry-ride from the Darling Habour – Wharf No. 6; the trip by itself offered us spectacular view of the Sydney Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Furthermore, it was sheer luck that it offered an amazing advantage to keen visitors – for a mere few dollars towards the nature conservation effort and it is amazing to note how Australians put much weight on such efforts.
Our children had a great time as they roam through the zoo looking out for the country’s domestic marsupials and other animals. The children are still very young; traveling is one of many activities we can do to help them grow into accomplished adults with perspective that extends beyond their own limited vicinity. At home and at school, we parents make sure they go through a fairly routine life. They mingle around with family members and friends who are similar to us in many ways and undergo a prescribed set of daily activities and mundane chores. It’s easy for children to lost focus, and begin to believe their contented lives are the norm for everyone. This creates bonds that limit their perspectives.
When we tag along our children in our travels, near or far, we let our children break free of those bonds, experiencing new cultures and food; and exposing them to different ways of thinking, talking with new acquaintances, and in the course of doing all these – gaining a broader perspective through their new experiences. Often our children bring those experiences home with them, such as, the city’s cleanliness served as a reminder of their own duty to keep their house tidy always, the Aboriginal street performers in Sydney helped them realize how much they must take pride and uphold the noble aspects of our very own culture, and how the live scientific educational opportunities while exploring peculiar Australian animals at the Zoo and aquarium helped build their inquiring minds.
As Muslims, we are commanded to travel in the world to reflect upon Allah Almighty’s creations and witness other cultures and to investigate the social orders, history and philosophies of past people. Further, As Imam As-Shafi’i beautifully puts it: “Leave your country in search of loftiness, And travel! For in travel there are five benefits. Relief of adversity and earning of livelihood, and knowledge and etiquettes and noble companionship.”
Islam also calls upon us to a study of the natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, the arts and all sciences available to us, and to study them in reflection of Allah Almighty’s creations; for the benefit of humankind and the well-being of society. The Qur’an recommends the study of these sciences on the condition that it leads to truth and reality, that it produces a correct view of the world based on an understanding of God. This is what we wish to instil in our children.
Sydney is a pleasant place to visit. From the breathtaking views of the famous harbour with the iconic Sydney Opera House on show to the many good restaurants and a long list of fun family activities including Luna Park and an excellent sushi eating place, Umi Sushi at Sydney’s Darling Quarter, there is something for everyone in the family. Our encounters have convinced us to plan a return trip to this pleasant and beautiful country.
Azril Mohd Amin  19th July 2012  28th Shaaban 1433