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Provinces of Indonesia

The province (provinsi or propinsi) is the highest tier of local government subnational entity in Indonesia. Each province has its own local government (Pemerintah Daerah Provinsi), headed by the governor (gubernur); and has its own legislative body (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah). The Governor and member of representatives are elected by popular vote for 5 years term.

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This page is a short summary containing more general information about the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. Extensive information on Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam can be found in the directories 'Sumatra' and 'Aceh' on this website.

Location map of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

Aceh, pronounced approximately Ah-Ch, but with [e], not [ei] at the end) is a special territory (daerah istimewa) of Indonesia, located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. Its full name is Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. Past spellings of its name include Acheh, Atjeh and Achin.

It thought to have been in Aceh where Islam was first established in Southeast Asia. In the early seventeenth century the Sultanate of Aceh was the most wealthy, powerful and cultivated state in the Malacca Straits region. Aceh has a history of political independence and fierce resistance to control by outsiders, including the former Dutch colonists and the Indonesian government. Aceh has substantial natural resources, including oil and gas - some estimates put Aceh gas reserves as being the largest in the world. Relative to most of Indonesia, it is a religiously conservative area.

Aceh was the closest point of land to the epicenter of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which triggered a tsunami that devastated much of the western coast of the region, including part of the capital of Banda Aceh. 167,736 Indonesians, the overwhelming majority in Aceh, were killed or missing and 500,000 made homeless. This led to a peace agreement between the government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), mediated by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, with the signing of a MoU on August 15, 2005. As of December 2006, the peace has held.


A full version of the history of Aceh can be found on a separate page.
History of Aceh


Within the country, Aceh is governed not as a province but as a special territory (daerah istimewa), an administrative designation intended to give the area increased autonomy from the central government in Jakarta.

Administratively, the province is subdivided into 17 regencies (kabupaten) and 4 cities (kota). The capital and the largest city is Banda Aceh, located on the coast near the northern tip of Sumatra. Some local areas are pushing to create new autonomous areas, usually with the stated goal of enhancing local control over politics and development.

The cities in Aceh are: Banda Aceh, Langsa, Lhokseumawe, and Sabang. The regencies in Aceh are: Aceh Besar, Central Aceh, East Aceh, Aceh Jaya, North Aceh, Aceh Singkil, South Aceh, Southeast Aceh, Southwest Aceh, Aceh Tamiang, West Aceh, Bener Meriah, Bireuen, Gayo Lues, Nagan Raya, Pidie, and Simeulue.

Ethnic and Cultural groups

Aceh is a diverse region occupied by several ethnic and language groups. The major ethnic groups are the Acehnese (who are distributed throughout Aceh), Gayo (in central and eastern part), Alas (in southeastern), Tamiang (in Aceh Tamiang), Aneuk Jamee (concentrated in southern and southwestern), Kluet (in South Aceh), and Simeulue (on Simeulue Island). There is also a significant population of Chinese, who are influential in the business and financial communities. Aceh is also the center of Shi'a Islam in the country.
The Acehnese language is widely spoken within the Acehnese population. This is a member of the Aceh-Chamic group of languages, whose other representatives are mostly found in Vietnam and Cambodia, and is also closely related to the Malay group of languages. Achenese has many words borrowed from Malay and Arabic and traditionally was written using Arabic script. Acehnese is also used as local language in Langkat and Asahan (North Sumatra), and Kedah (Malaysia), and once dominated Penang. Alas and Kluet are closely related languages within the Batak group. The Jamee language originated from Minang language in West Sumatra, with just a few variation and differences.

Aceh was once a meeting point for people from many nations, and among the present day Acehnese can be found some individuals of Arab, Turkish,and Indian descent. Before the tsunami, the region of Meureuhom Daya (Lamno) used to have an unusually high number of people with fair complexions, blue eyes and blond hair, and local traditions attributed to Turkish ancestry.

All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on March 19, 2010
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