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.