An intricate wrought iron gate, one half closed, the other propped open, invites you to enter a magical garden offering a cool escape from the hot humid day. Above the portal is a stone sign engraved in Arabic, English and Chinese: Jamia Mosque. Pass beneath the sign and the noise of the escalator and people recedes quickly, replaced by tranquility, bird song and the occasional call to prayer.
Mosque Street is home to a number of apartment buildings and a few retail shops. It is home to a variety of very good restaurants, delis, pet salons, veterinarian clinics, and nail/beauty bars. To live in and around this street, you are right in the heart of the Mid Levels with the escalator right at your door. Mosque Street is a very popular choice for young professionals working in Central areas, who like to party in the surrounding Soho bars and restaurants and also go hiking or pursue sports activities on the weekends. In the area are supermarkets, dry cleaners, laundromats, convenience stores, bakeries, kindergartens and so on.
The Living Is Easy
The apartment towers are tall and dense. Space is always at a premium so in the typical Hong Kong style, everything goes up and up balancing on the hillsides. Apartments range from studios to large 4 bedroom penthouses with sky terraces, balconies and gardens. Most buildings are north facing to take advantage of often spectacular panoramas (especially if you are on the mid to high floors), of the city and harbor with dramatic nighttime views. Buildings such as The Grand Panorama with it’s 5 tower blocks, Maxluck and Fook Kee Courts, Rich Court, Ryan Mansion, Loison Villa and Soho 38 offer a good selection of apartments to cater to all requirements from older style well maintained to ultra high tech luxury. There are a couple of serviced apartment buildings – Orchard and Peach Blossom that cater for short to mid term stays as well. The surrounding streets of Robinson Road and Peel Street are both connected by Mosque Street and the escalator.
But when you think about Mosque Street, there is one image that will always prevail. The Jamia Mosque. There is something enchanting about its serenity in the midst of the Mid-Levels’ thicket of apartment towers. This is Hong Kong’s oldest masjid, but it’s more than just a place of worship. It’s an historical landmark that stands on a lushly vegetated acre of land that is also home to a unique squatter community. It’s a testament to the long history of Muslims in Hong Kong. And it’s a retreat from the crush of city life where anyone, Muslim or not, is welcome.
The mosque has stood on Shelley Street since 1850. It served Muslim merchants from as far as Oman and Iran, Muslim Indian soldiers in the British military, and Muslim sailors whom when they docked in Hong Kong, made their way uphill to pray at the mosque. In 1915, the mosque was completely rebuilt to its current form, painted in a cooling green, the shade of mint ice cream.
In 1929 a three-storey hostel for Muslim travelers was constructed on site. When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in 1941, Muslim families took shelter in the hostel to escape Allied bombing. They never left. Eventually, the mosque’s garden filled up with small houses that are still home to around 50 families.