Kicking off his maiden visit to Malaysia Friday, Britain's Prince Charles expressed his fascination with the country's cultural heritage and racial diversity.
"I must say that I've always been fascinated by Malaysia’s rich cultural, religious and racial diversity - which, if I may say so, is something to be both cherished and celebrated," the Prince of Wales said at a reception hosted by the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah.
"I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be in Malaysia for the first time and in this 60th anniversary year of Malaysia’s independence," the heir to the British throne said at his first official engagement of the week-long tour.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday on an official visit to this multi-ethnic nation of over 30 million people, one of the stops of Their Royal Highnesses’ Autumn Tour.
The reception was held at the Islamic Arts Museum, located a stone's throw away from the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.
In his speech, Prince Charles noted that guests at the event represented a broad cross-section of Malaysia’s faith groups and its vibrant civil society which could play a vital role in fostering understanding between and within Malaysia’s diverse communities.
The setting for the reception could hardly be more appropriate, he said, describing the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia as the most wonderful celebration of the great diversity of traditions in Islamic art, and the rich variety of influences that had shaped it over the centuries.
"I am particularly delighted that the museum has such strong connections with my own School of Traditional Arts, which itself aims to ensure that traditional arts and skills continue to enrich our changing world. '
’Particularly when you think that many of the world's sacred traditions and traditional art forms have already been destroyed," he told the gathering.
During the 90-minute visit, Prince Charles, accompanied by Sultan Nazrin Shah, toured galleries highlighting, among others, the beauty of Islamic architecture, the Quran and manuscripts as well as the Ottoman Room, a reconstructed interior that dates from the early 19th century.
Prince Charles presented the museum with a souvenir in the form of his name written in Arabic and framed by intricately-patterned borders. He had produced the gift himself.
Elaborating on his School of Traditional Arts, the Prince of Wales said one of the objectives of the school was to work on a practical solution to the threat of further extinction of the world's sacred traditions and traditional art forms.
The main solution, he said, was the teaching and promotion of the practice of these arts and crafts, including among students who attended the school from all over the world and from many different cultures.
'’Thus, the school is in a unique position to promote understanding and tolerance between cultures, helping to forge links and encourage recognition of the common values held by all," Prince Charles said.
Coming back to the venue of the reception, he said the museum served as a reminder of just how important it was that all societies were able to preserve - and be proud of - their cultural heritage.
"For that reason, I could not be more pleased to begin my visit to Malaysia in this marvellous museum and to be here with all of you this morning," he said.
Besides Kuala Lumpur, the British royal couple are also scheduled to visit a number of places in the states of Perak, Sarawak and Penang as well as participate in various significant events over the span of the visit until Nov 8.
Also today, Their Royal Highnesses are to have an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, at Istana Negara, and have granted an audience to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
The last two visits by the British royalty here were by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh who attended the official opening of the 16th Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, and the visit by Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in September 2012.