Yesterday I made my second visit to Udong, Cambodia's capital city between 1618 and 1866 and several Kings were crowned there and a few are interred on the Phnom Udong, the big hill that dominates the local landscape about 44 kilometers north of Phnom Penh up National Highway 5.
A cow runs away from me in a rice paddy along the road to Udong. Cows and water buffalo always seem to be scared of me, maybe because they sense that I once ate water buffalo brains in Laos. Quite a tasty meal I might add!
A typical raodside view in the Cambodian countryside where rice is the king of all crops.
While I certianly enjoyed the magnificent vista from the beautiful new pagoda at the top of 509 steps, my main mission for the day was to visit Cham (Cambodian Muslim) communities in the Udong vicinity. There were a group of white-clad Buddhist pilgrims praying at the temple when I arrived.
There are three distinct groups of Muslims in Cambodia; the Cham, who speak the Cham language, The Jahed who speak Cham and Khmer, and the Chvea, concentrated around Battambang, who speak Khmer. The differences between these groups are not so much based on their language, but rather on the unique customs and traditions that they adhere to.
A few shots of Buddhist Cambodians on the hill at Udong:
The Ta San Mosque is old, beautifully simple and home to some of Cambodia's Jahed sect of Muslims who speak Cham and are unique because of their custom of parying on Fridays, rather than five times a day as most of the world's Muslims do. At this site the man who is reputed to have introduced Islam to Cambodia is buried. The Imam of the Mosque was fantastically warm and welcoming.
The Ta San Mosque on the small ridge at Phnom Udong: exterior.
The Ta San Mosque on the small ridge at Phnom Udong: interior.
The friendly old Imam at Ta San Mosque.
About 12 kilometers north of Udong on National Highway 5 is the Chrok Romeat Mosque where my friend Ismael, a teacher, lives with his lovely wife and teaches at the school behind the Mosque.
The tower of the Chrok Romeat Mosque.
Two Cham boys near the Mosque.
The blacksmith works in his shop in the village near the Mosque.
Many, maybe most Cham (Cambodian Muslims) are concentrated in Phnom Penh, Udong and Kampong Cham province, where I paln to make a visit next month to photograph Cham life in small fishing villages.
Some protrais of Cham people in and around Udong, Cambodia: