Palembang at a Glance

20 Des. 2011 | Page

City of Palembang

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Palembang is located in the island of Sumatera, in the west part of Indonesia. It is the capital city of South Sumatera Province, one of 33 provinces across the archipelagic nation of Indonesia. Palembang is the second-largest city in the island of Sumatera with a population of around 1.4 million, an area of 400.61 square kilometres, and located between 8 to 27 meters above sea level. The city is located on the Musi River banks on the east coast of southern Sumatera Island. Musi River holds a dearly position in the heart of people living in Palembang as it is the centre of their daily life.

The city of Palembang was once the capital of the ancient maritime kingdom of Srivijaya that controlled most part of Indonesia, Malaysia and Southern Thailand. A historical record of Kedukan Hill inscription which dated 682 AD shows that Palembang is the oldest city across the Indonesian archipelago. Since the ancient time, Palembang is also an important port serving as trade hub between India and China. Render it as one of the most important city in Indonesian and Malay history.

Palembang is a multicultural city with the presence of Chinese, Arab, and Indian descent. Islam is the major religion alongside Catholic, Christian, Hindus, Buddhist, and Kong Hu Cu. These diverse cultural backgrounds characterize the appearance of Palembang today. As a cosmopolitan city port, it absorbs neighbouring as well as foreign culture and created a rich Palembang culture. It is can be seen from the architecture, traditional dance and costume as well as local language, which absorb the culture of coastal Malays, Javanese, Indian, Arab and Chinese among others. One of the evidence of multiculturalism is the Grand Mosque of Palembang, which is one of the inheritances of Palembang Sultanate and was built in 1738-1748 under the ruling of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin I. The architecture of the Grand Mosque is a typical Palembang traditional architecture with a combination of Chinese style tower that is still preserved as original until today.


History recorded that the spread of Islam in Indonesia was initiated through trade, particularly by the help of Arab and Chinese traders. As the capital of the most  influential Buddhist Kingdom in the Southeast Asia at the century, it is no wonder that Palembang become a busy trading port. Among those merchants are Arabic traders who are also devoted followers of Islam.

Then, Islam started to be accepted by a part of Sriwijaya’s citizens. Based  on Ibnu Abdullah Rabbih travel records, Sriwijaya’s King at the moment sent letter to khalifah of the Umayah Dinasty to strengthen the relations between Sriwijaya and Umayah Dinasty, taking into consideration the flourishing of Islam in Sriwjaya.

In the year of 1068, the empire began to fall with the 20-year battle of invasion from the Chola Dynasty of India. With the lost of many soldiers and empty coffer, Sriwijaya was badly weakened. The fall of Sriwijaya drew closer with the attack of Majapahit. The last Prince of Sriwijaya, Prameswari, who moved to Malacca and converted to Islam was then changed his name to Sultan Iskandar Shah.

The fall of Majapahit in Java led to the beginning of Palembang’s Sultanate which reached its golden era under the command of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin the first who has close relationship with the descent of the holy prophet Muhammad sallahu ‘alaihi wassalam also has a good relationship with the Arab traders and ulama, who were mostly came from Yemen. A long history of the Islamic culture originated from Hadramaut, built a strong sense of cultural bonding between the two cities.

A literature cited the word “Palembang” as originated from a Chinese phrase “Po-Lin-Fong” which refers to “an old harbor”. The role of Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho was also indispensable in the spread of Islam in Indonesia. He was recorded to visit Palembang four times along with 62 vessels and an army of 27.800 soldiers during the period of 1405 – 1433 A.D. Since 1407, Admiral Cheng Ho initiated the Chinese Muslim community in Palembang. Until today, Chinese architecture is widely adopted in Palembang, including in religious sites and monuments.


The city of Palembang also known as the "City of Water Tour" since September 27, 2005 by the declaration from the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Musi River, a core economic entry as well as the icon of Palembang is the longest, 750 kilometres Sumatran river. Along the riverbank, we could find many interesting tourism sites such as: Jembatan Ampera (Ampera Bridge), a 1.177 metres bridge which was built in 1962; Benteng Kuto Besak (Kuto Besak Fortress); Museum Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin the 2nd; Kemaro Island; Ilir 16 Market; Rumah Rakit; pantai Bagus Kuning (Bagus Kuning Beach); Jembatan Musi II (Musi Bridge); and Masjid Al Munawar. Other fascinating sites are Masjid Cheng Ho and Arab Village.

In November 2011, Palembang will be co-hosting the 26th South East Asian Games with Jakarta. A multimillion dollar construction project has taken place in order to revamp the city. This development of modern facilities and infrastructure makes Palembang more than ready to welcome international visitor and to host international event.

Like most Indonesian cities, Palembang has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical rainforest climate. The average temperature ranges from 23.4 to 31.7 degrees Celsius, which make it a pleasant destination to visit all year round.