Sunday, July 7, 2013

Melaka, UNESCO World Heritage City Celebration

Melaka, located on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia is the third smallest state in Malaysia. Melaka city, which overlooks the straits of Melaka, is the capital city of the tiny state of Melaka.  Easily accessible from Kuala Lunpur via an excellent network of roads, the city of Melaka is historic trading port with a rich cultural past.
Melaka was believed to have been founded by Parameswara (or Raja Iskandar) the last Malay ruler of Temasik (ancient Singapore) in 1396 when he and his followers settled at Bertram near the estuary of the Melaka River. The king named the site Melaka after a tree that grew there. Parameswara, used the strategic position of Melaka on the straits to transform it into a powerful maritime state and Melaka in due time began to attract traders from faraway lands like China, India, Japan and West Asia. Some of these traders actually settled down in Melaka as they intermarried with the local people and gave birth to the prominent Melaka community known as the Peranakan(Baba-Nyonya) people
The Melaka Sultanate thus occupied a prominent position in the history of Malaysia for it signaled the beginning of the emergence of a new Malay empire. However in 1511, Melaka fell into Portuguese hands and they ruled here for over a century until they were driven out by the Dutch in 1641. The Dutch built many fine buildings around Melaka in an effort to cement their presence there. Some of these buildings like the Stadthuys, Melaka’s striking pink town hall and the city’s red Christ Church stand tall until today.
The British followed the Dutch to Melaka in 1795, when Melaka was given to them to prevent it falling to the French during the Napoleonic Wars. The state was then returned to the Dutch in 1818 by way of the treaty of Vienna but then it passed back to the British in 1826, who continued to rule here until Malaysia’s independence from colonial rule in 1957.
These various European powers left their stamp on Melaka in the form of numerous heritage buildings and sites like the Portuguese built A Famosa Fort, St Paul’s Church, St Peter’s Church amongst others. These prominent heritage sites coupled with the city’s many historic temples, markets and quaint shop-houses have attracted legions of history buffs and tourists over the years. 
Such has been the popularity and the renown of this heritage city, that on 7th July 2008, UNESCO bestowed it with the honor of the title, World Heritage City. The anniversary of this historic event has been celebrated with much pomp and ceremony ever since.
The anniversary celebrations are usually held in front of the Independence Memorial, located near the ruins of 16th century Portuguese Santiago Gateway in Bandar Hill. This nightlong extravaganza usually features a dazzling fireworks display and various cultural performances by Melaka's unique communities such as the Baba and Nyonya, the Portuguese, and the Chitty.  The event is then followed by much feasting and street dancing within the various neighborhoods of the city.
This year, the celebration of Melaka’s unique culture and heritage is slated for Sunday, the 7th of July, so if you happen to be in or around Melaka at that time, do make sure you participate in the revelry that celebrates the heritage of this truly unique Malaysian city.

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