Albukhary International University popularizes Alor Setar, Kedah, generates tourism, and boosts economy

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International Students from AIU having dinner at one of the stalls outside the campus. Photo/MWN 

ALOR SETAR, the state capital of Kedah, has become a well-known city in around 64 countries today, thanks to Albukhary International University (AIU), which attracts and brings thousands of international students to Alor Setar to further their studies in various fields.

The first time I visited Alor Setar, Kedah, I thought it was a dead city—no tourist attractions, no nightlife, no nice places for sightseeing, shopping, or chilling around—unlike its neighbours Langkawi Island and Penang which are being snowed by millions of tourists every year due to their hotspot tourist attractions, destinations, and tourism infrastructure.

However, after staying longer in Alor Setar, Kedah, I started to explore many places of interest to visit here and enjoy. More importantly, we found that AIU plays a crucial role in developing this state and turning it not only into an international education hub but also a tourist destination.

In my interview with AIU Vice Chancellor Emeritus Professor Dato’ Abd. Aziz Tajuddin over the roles of AIU in education and generating tourism and economic growth in the state, he said, “Kedah is now well known around the world, as over 64 countries know Kedah. People already know where Kedah is; there is no need to look at the map.

“Even though our students are not considered tourists, they love to go shopping, sightseeing, visiting places, and enjoying Malaysian dishes, besides exploring the beautiful culture of Malaysia. They even share information with their parents, relatives, and friends about Kedah`s beauty and peacefulness,” he added.

Tourists or foreigners were seldom seen here, but over the years, AIU has managed to change the face and reputation of Alor Setar and help reshape educational perspectives as well as tourism and its economic sectors.

The university contributes not only to the tourism industry in Kedah but also to the economy.

If you pay a visit to the eateries or the “souk” near AIU during the day or at night, you will see lots of businesses are doing well, as most of their customers are international students besides the staff residing at the campus.

At night, the food stalls and shops around Taman PKNK, Jalan Tun Razak, and Alor Setar are usually occupied by AIU students who enjoy meeting, eating, and hanging around with their friends here, even late at night.

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According to Abd. Aziz, the university encourages students to go shopping and go around by providing them with a monthly allowance of RM450 each, besides nice free accommodation and tuition.

“The students have nothing to worry about here except to concentrate on their studies and enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of Kedah and Malaysia.

“Besides the allowance that AIU is offering them, students are also allowed to do some businesses like sewing, painting, and creating cool items for sale inside the campus.

“When we designed the university, we built everything you like nearby, such as a nice souk (shopping mall), a mosque, a hospital, hostels, and a hotel.

“Yes, the tourism industry here is booming, and even “makcik” (aunty) can now speak English because most of their customers are international students.

“If you look around, you would see that Albukhary Souq (shopping mall) stores are now fully rented and the businesses are doing well inside.

“AIU is now playing a vital role in developing Kedah State`s tourism industry and economy and making the city alive and rich,” Abd. Aziz said.

On the question of whether it would be possible to open AIU for local and international tourists who would love to come here to see its beautiful buildings with unique architecture, beautiful lake, huge, fantastic library, and inspiring environment, Abd. Aziz said, “This can be done, but it needs proper planning and ample time to organize it.”

“For now, we do have an open day for potential students from all over Malaysia and overseas to come in,” he added.

AIU Campus is a modern and progressive higher institution with a capacity to accommodate 3000 students. It is located near the Alor Star city center and is built on approximately 70 acres of land. Six concept architects were initially appointed to plan and design the various facade treatments, interpreting the various Islamic architectural styles found throughout the world. The appointed architects, apart from ATSA Architects, were KAZ Akitek, Razin Architects, ARRA Architects, Zailani Architect, and Muzanee Architect, according to a statement from AIU.

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Shahana Blues stall serving drinks to students. Photo/MWN

Meanwhile, Khairil Azlan Ramli, the owner of the stall `Shahana Blues’, enjoys doing business in this area, as his stall is always full of students from different countries having their drinks and food there.

From our observations, there are several stalls in this area, and people have to queue or wait for a long time to get their food order. Some stall owners need to hire more workers to cope with the demands.

Most of the AIU students like to chill in Khairil`s stall, sometimes till late at night. Among them are many female students, too. These students like to have drinks and eat in his stall, as he is very kind, friendly, and entertaining.

Usually after 9 p.m., he would put on some nice Western or Arabic music that creates a good ambiance.

The students love to eat and hang around here because the place is so peaceful and the beverages and food are cheap yet delicious. More importantly, the workers here treat the foreign students with love and respect.

“Most of the stores and eatery stalls are doing well because of the students. Every day, almost 400 to 500 students go shopping and eat there.”

Meanwhile, Arif told MWN that his business was good and that he managed to sell at least 200 pieces of roti canai every night. He thanked AIU students, his regular customers, for their support.

Shahana Blues, who always smiles at customers when serving them drinks from her stall at Taman PKNK, expressed happiness as she could serve over 1,000 cups of soft drinks to AIU students and other customers every day.

After interviewing several students about why they like to eat and chill around at Taman PKNK, we received amazing views and answers.

Jahidul Islam from Bangladesh said the place offers a variety of foods that attract people from diverse backgrounds.

“The sellers have created a friendly environment that attracts customers to come and enjoy their meals. The drinks and foods sold at PKNK are really delicious compared to other places, while the prices are cheap and affordable too.”

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Ainurrachma from Indonesia said she likes to eat “nasi goreng Kak Imah” because it tastes the same as the fried rice sold in Indonesia.

“PKNK is the only place that makes me feel at home, as everybody is welcome here. The stalls and shops are excellent, with vendors always smiling at the customers. I know they also try to learn English to enable them to communicate with international students.

“The food is quite cheap and served in large portions. We are also entertained with good music while enjoying our food,” she said.

“I chose PKNK because the food sold here is delicious and at reasonable prices. The stall assistants are awesome too, as they fulfill our demands, such as serving us bread and eggs.

“When we go to PKNK, we need not go to other places as everything can be found at the shops around this area,” said Md.Fazle Elahi from Bangladesh.

Through the Yayasan Albukhary Foundation, AIU provides an equal opportunity to selected underprivileged students around the world to improve their social standing through education.

The Al Bukhary International University campus, with a capacity to accommodate 3000 students, forms part of the overall development of the proposed Sharifah Rokiah Complex, consisting of the Albukhary International University, Souq Albukhary, an orphanage, and an old folks home. – Malaysia World News


Graduate with a Master of Mass Communication. 10 years working experience in the media and broadcasting.

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