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The mountainous province of Aceh consists of the entire northern tip of Sumatra, and guards the entrance to the most important sea-route of Asia: Malacca Strait. Almost all traffic over sea between West and East passes this sea-lane, and Aceh has been the first land for Arab and Indian merchants for centuries.

Against the end of the 13th century the trading posts and small principalities which were scattered along the coast of Aceh, had developed into the first Islamic states of Indonesia. Marco Polo visited Aceh in 1292. He told about the Islamic principalities of Peurlak and Samudra. During the 'Golden Age' in the early 17th century, under the rule of the strict and tough Sultan Iskandar Mu (...)

The coasts and the highlands of western Aceh belong to the most spectacular nature of Indonesia. Until not too long ago this area was almost not reachable, but recent improvements to the roads have made travelling a lot more easy. Now it's possible to follow the western coast on the road from Banda Aceh towards Tapaktuan and from there to Medan or Danau Toba via Sidikalang. The journey (...)

Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, a beautiful if not imposing building in central Banda Aceh, has come to symbolize Aceh's greatness, its people's strong devotion to Islam, and now, as the province recovers from the devastating earthquake and tsunamis last month, it has come to represent hope. On Friday, the mosque will be the focus of the celebration of Idul Adha (Islamic Day of Sacrifice), with morning (...)

The earliest Islamic kingdoms of Indonesia were along the northern coast of Aceh. A number of short, fast rivers descend from Bukit Barisan to this coast, and for centuries the river mouths gave protection to ships before and after the long journey over the Indian Ocean. In this way, harbours like Samudra-Pasai (Lhokseumawe), Tamiang (Langsa), Peureulak, Samalanga and Pidie (Sigli), were fo (...)

The Gayo Highlands consist of the mountainous central part of Aceh, an isolated area which is cut of from the surrounding coastal plains by the rough peaks of Bukit Barisan. This is the habitat of about 250,000 Gayo, a dynamic population with an own language, lively traditional art and a high level of education. The four big Gayo area's are each concentrated around a lake of rive (...)

Evidence concerning the initial coming and subsequent establishment of Islam is thin and inconclusive, however, it is thought that it was through the Aceh region. When Venetian traveller Marco Polo passed by Sumatra on his way home from China in 1292 he found that Perlak was a Muslim town while nearby 'Basma(n)' and 'Samara' were not. 'Basma(n)' and 'Samara' are often said to be Pasai and Samudra (...)

Weh Island or Pulau Weh or Pulo Weh (by the local population commonly referred to only as "Sabang", the name of the largest city) is a small active volcanic island to the northwest of Sumatra. It was originally connected to the Sumatran mainland and became separated by sea after the volcano's last eruption in the Pleistocene era. The island is situated in the Andaman Sea. The largest (...)

The insurgency in Aceh was waged by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) between 1976 and 2005 in order to obtain independence from Indonesia. Destruction caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake brought a peace deal and an end to the insurgency. Background There is a cultural and religious divide between Aceh and the rest of Indonesia as well. A more conservative form of Is (...)

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