On the most southern tip of the Sulawesi lies the capital of the island. It is the largest city in Celebes with nearly 900.000 inhabitants. Makassar was, until very recently, known as Ujung Pandang and it is a city with a glorious history of sailors and worriers.
Gateway to Toraja
Makassar is the main entrance to the highlands to the north. During the economic and political crisis that started in 1997, Merpati Nusantara Airlines ceased operation of the flight from Makassar to Toraja. One used to be able to fly there in a 14-seater in less than an hour. Nowadays, there is a very good and reliable bus service that takes you there in about 8 hours. (See: How to get there & By bus). Hopefully, with renewed efforts to promote tourism to the country, airline services to Pongtiku Airport in Toraja will be resumed in the near future.
Makassar's history dates back to at least the 14th century. It became the islands major town towards the 16th century thanks to various kingdoms such as Gowa and Tallo and the so-called nomads of the sea, the Bajau-people.
In the 17th century, when Makassar had already been in extensive contact with Islam, the city grew enormously and became a center of trade and commerce. This trend continued during the following decades, with initially slaves, and later on with pearls, copra, sandalwood as the major commodities. In 1938, with a population of more than 700,000 people, Makassar was given the status of capital of virtually the entire eastern half of Indonesia.
After the Second World War, the city grew even further and extended in all directions. The name Ujung Pandang (sometimes used by Bugis and Makassar traders) was given to the city in the mid seventies. Ujung Pandang has an important state university named after Makassarese Sultan Hasanuddin, and the number of smaller kampungs towards the east have created a whole new urban area of which today's Panakkukang is a part.
Recently, in December 1999, the municipality of the city decided to change its name back to Makassar.
Sightseeing in the city
After the Dutch, together with the Bugis people, conquered the main Makassarese fortress ('banteng'), they called it Fort Rotterdam. Today, the fortress is still the main attraction of the city and houses a library, a museum and archeological archives. North of the fortress, in the area that was formerly called 'Kampung Belanda', confined by today's Jl. Nusantara and Jl. Jampea, lived the Europeans and Chinese. A stroll around this area is well worth a morning in spite of the fact that many historic buildings were demolished when the modern harbour was constructed in the early nineties. Meander down the many narrow streets, and try to absorb the atmosphere of Makassar's past.
If you want to see the famous large sailing ships, the perahu pinisi, you go to Paotere Harbour in the north. There, you will find a colourful spectrum of boats being (un)loaded, fishermen going about their business and emptying their nets full of swordfish, tuna, octopus etc. Today, this harbour remains a centre of commercial maritime transport. You will see hundreds of sacks of rice or sugar and tons of wooden planks imported from Kalimantan, destined to go to other major cities as Jakarta and Surabaya.
Another attraction of Makassar are the four major Chinese temples. The oldest and probably most attractive is the 'Temple of the Heavenly Queen' (Tian Hou Gong) on the corner of Jl. Sulawesi and Jl. Serui.
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