The History

The 3,000 islands of Riau province straddle Malacca Straits, one of the oldest and business trading routes in the world. For centuries the islands have provided a safe haven to traders and sailors from Europe, India and China and as a result they have strong foreign historical links. Riau, which includes a large part of East Sumatra, is the heartland of the Malays and the source of Indonesia's Malay-based national language. The first book of Malay grammar, called Bustanul Katibin, was written and published here in 1857 and foreign seafarers and traders also adopted Malay in the 14th and 15th centuries so that they could communicate and be successful, effectively creating a language of trade and power.


The Malacca Kingdom played a leading role in the history of the area since it's founding in 1402 by Parameswara. With the arrival of the Portuguese however, a period of wars for control of the Malay states around the Straits, began. The situation was aggravated with the arrival of the Dutch and British in the early 17th century. A turbulent conflict followed which was partially resolved by the Treaty of London in 1824, which gave the Dutch control of all territories claimed by European countries south of Singapore. This area included Riau, and effectively severed its links with Johor and the mainland. The Dutch subjugated and dissolved the rebellious Riau Sultanate in 1911, but the province's influence remained strong.

Pekanbaru, the provincial capital lies in Sumatra, just east of Bukit Barisan mountain range and is developing quickly. It only became the provincial capital in 1959.

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