Sometimes when you revisit a place close to your heart, you’ll get overwhelmed with emotions. Surprise and nostalgia are some of the things you’d felt.

A few days ago, I revisited such a place; the first Sekolah Agama (Malay for religious school) I went to. Sekolah Agama Bukit Zaharah is located within the compounds of Kebun Bunga DiRaja, also known as Istana Gardens.

Along with the two emotions I mentioned earlier… I was also saddened by the state of my alma mater. The school building still stood; but like many buildings in Johor Bahru, it is left decrepit.

The picture below shows what used to be the school canteen. I distinctly remember buying gula tarik (literal Malay translation is pulled candy; made from palm sugar) and kacang sambal (peanuts mixed with hot sauce) from this place.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - Canteen (by azmeen)

After taking some photos of the canteen, I turned and faced the main school building itself. I barely contained the tears that began to swell my eyes… composed myself and took a photo of the rear facade.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - School Building (by azmeen)

Although it is technically the rear entrance of the school, it is the most often used by students. This is because it is nearest to the main road. For more than two years, this is the entrance that greeted me every afternoon from Sunday to Thursday.

During my time here, Johor was still observing the Friday to Saturday weekends.

As I stepped inside the unguarded compound, I immediately recalled the fun times I had in this place. It never occurred to me back then that this place is ancient… it was constructed in 1858!

As old as the building is, it’s architecture is simply breathtaking. This made me wonder why the authorities left the building to rot. Surely this place is worthy of being gazetted as a heritage site.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - Broken Stairs (by azmeen)

I explored the place further and soon found the class I had studied in. The door has a broken panel but it still clung to its frame by the sturdy hinges.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - Class Door (by azmeen)

I peeped inside and was greeted by an unfamiliar sense of emptiness. You see, during my days here this class can pack up to 40 students… it’s large compared to the classrooms of modern school buildings. I can still imagine my friends reading books and reciting Quranic verses in here… whatever happened to them? Do they know the state of our beloved school now?

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - This Used to be My Classroom (by azmeen)

As I continued my trek within the school compound, I wondered how long this building will last. I doubt that it would be demolished as technically, it’s still on royal palace grounds.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - Classroom (by azmeen)

I might as well snap as many pictures of the place as I can… at the very least, I can share them with my wife and son. That’s when I decided that I absolutely must write something about Sekolah Agama Bukit Zaharah and post it on my blog.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zaharah (by azmeen)

The picture below pretty much sums up the desolation of this place. Compare it to the thriving and healthy trees in the background.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zaharah (by azmeen)

As I went full circle around the building, I came to a place that I’m unfamiliar with; the front entrance. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always used the rear entrance to get to class. I couldn’t recall a time when I actually went to the front entrance. The gate was massive as you can see below:

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - Front Gate (by azmeen)

As I wrapped up this visit, I took another picture of the rear section of my formerly glorious school. Just hoping that I can see it restored to its former glory in my lifetime.

Sekolah Agama Bukit Zahrah - Front (by azmeen)

If you love old architecture, you should give Sekolah Agama Bukit Zaharah a visit when you’re in JB. I have no idea how long the place would last… but looking at its current state, I don’t give it much hope.

It is near the car park entrance of Istana Gardens and is quite a popular spot for wedding photography. Check out Wikimapia for its exact location.