Aceh is an old kingdom that goes back more than a thousand years and strategically located at the Northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Islam was introduced 1,000 years ago while the Acehnese had been seafarers who ventured to India, the Middle-East all the way to East Africa – hence its ethnicity has many infusions. They even controlled a great swathe of the Malayan peninsular and inevitably would have played a significant part in the spread of Islam.
When the Dutch controlled Indonesia, they couldn’t control Aceh. They even tried by going to war against Aceh but failed with many casualties. Then there was the years of attempts towards separatism against Jakarta’s control which again saw many casualties on both sides. Then the great tsunami of 2004 hit and that claimed so many lives. Banda Aceh lost almost half of it’s population with almost half of those numbers being children. Lamno, located in West Aceh lost half of its people with the tides moving miles inland and sucking then out to sea upon retreating.
Seeing young people going about their lives only reminds us that they are survivors of the tsunami. Almost all the families lost members to that disaster. Too many heart-wrenching stories! Today Aceh is an autonomous region and Sharia law is the law of the land. Coming from Medan, one would pass the coastal city of Loksuemawe along the Straits of Malacca. Takengon however is located in the mountains and has a breathtaking lake. It’s also known as a coffee town growing and serving exceptional coffee. Lamno is where you find descendants of the Portuguese who ventured there hundreds of years ago. Some of them still have blue eyes and are aptly known as “mata biru” to the Acehnese.