Riau Archipelago

The 3,000 islands of the Riau province straddle the Straits of Malacca, one of the oldest and busiest trading routes in the world. For centuries the islands have provided a safe haven to traders and sailors from Europe, India and China, retaining today the flavour of an ancient 'crossroads of the world". The romantic history of this region is rich with tales of piracy and international conflict. Riau, which includes a large part of East Sumatra, is homeland to 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.

Since its founding in 1402 by Parameswara, the Kingdom of Malacca played a leading role in the history of the area. With the arrival of the Portuguese a period of wars for control of the Straits began. The situation was aggravated by 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, giving the Dutch control of all European territories south of Singapore. This area included Riau, and effectively severed its links with Johor and the mainland.

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