Aceh, The Veranda of Mecca
Passionately called the “Veranda of Mecca”, this predominantly Muslim province in Indonesia was devastated by a shattering earthquake and catastrophic tsunami at the end of 2004. But with tragedy, comes a blessing. The province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam opens up and reveals its true beauty to the world.
For centuries, Islam has been the dominant faith embraced by most residents of Aceh. But unlike many other places in Indonesia where Islam is also domineering, make room for various other cultural and religious assimilations. Aceh is a special region where strict Islamic traditions and values are still upheld and strongly observed to this day. It is therefore no exaggeration that the region has earned the nickname “The Veranda of Mecca“.
Islam’s solid influence in Aceh began in the 13th century when Malik Al Saleh founded the Samudera Pasai Kingdom, later recorded as the first Islamic sultanate in Indonesia. In its heyday, Samudera Pasai was known worldwide as a bustling commercial center in the island of Sumatra. Regularly visited by merchants from India, Persia, Turkey, and China, the mingling of races has given Aceh its own unigue color to its culture. The kingdom’s vast relationship with kingdoms in other continents can be witnessed in the Museum Negeri Aceh, including the Cakradonya Bell- a gift from the Kingdom of China delivered by Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414.
The supremacy of Samudera Pasai was no match for the enormous power of Majapahit, a Hindu kingdom from Java. After suffering, this defeat at the hands of Majapahit, Aceh once again triumphed in the 16th century, marking the emergence of the Aceh Sulanate under the leadership of Sultan Islandar Muda.
It was during the rule of Iskandar Muda that the Baiturahman Grand Mosque was built. The five domed mosque with charming architecture has undergone several facelifts. Its evolution can be also found in one of the rooms at Museum Negeri Aceh.
Today, the mosque stands tall in the center of capital, Banda Aceh, and is the pride of the people of Aceh. It has become a silent symbol that trough time, the Acehnese have remained valiantly faithful to the pillars of Islam.