December 21, 2008

The City

The history of Jakarta dates back to at least the 14th Century with the development of a small port of Hindu Pajajaran Kingdom at the mouth of Ciliwung River. Searching for the fabled "Spice Island", the Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive and establish a fortress on the site in the early 16th Century.

The old port was attacked by a neighboring sultanate under leadership of Prince Fatahillah. After the assault, the Portuguese navy fleet was destroyed. Fatahillah changed the name of the Sunda Kelapa port to Jayakarta, meaning "Total Victory", commemorating the defeat of the local Hindu Kingdom and their European allies. According to some historians, this event took place on June 22, 1527, a date which later was officially recognized as the birth of the city of Jakarta.

It was to this town that Dutch spice merchants came in the late 16th Century and began a trading association with Europe that was to dictate the history of Jakarta, and Indonesia as a nation, for nearly 350 years. Under the aggressive leadership of Jan Pieterzoon Coen, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) proceeded forcibly to take possession of the town of Jayakarta, renaming it Batavia in 1619; from here they ruled Indonesia for more than three centuries. Following the Japanese invasion and rule of the country from 1942-45, on August 17, 1945, Indonesia's first President Soekarno proclaimed Indonesia Independence and Jakarta became the accepted nation's capital.

Geographic Location
Jakarta is located on a wide, flat alluvial plain on the north coast of western Java. It covers 650 square kilometers of land which rises from five to 50 meters above sea level. Thirteen major waterways flow through it and empty into Jakarta Bay. Time is GMT plus 7 hours.

The city is bound to the north by the Java Sea, to the east by Bekasi district, to the south by Bogor district (these districts lie within the province of West Java) and to the west by Tangerang district (lie by the province of Banten). The city boundaries blend imperceptibly into the neighboring districts, when much of the city's industry is being developed and large numbers of the workforce are located. These greater Jakarta conurbation is known by the acronym Jabotabek (Jakarta-Bogor-Tangerang-Bekasi).

Lying near the equator, Jakarta is hot and humid year-round. The long rainy season falls between late October and early May though rain occurs throughout the year, averaging 1791 mm. Rain tends to come in short heavy bursts, but even during the rainy season it doesn't rain every day. It rains on only a handful of days during the dry season from July to September.

Afternoon humidity averages around 70 %, but is higher during the morning. Temperatures are fairly even throughout the year, averaging nearly 30°C maximum and 25°C minimum. Jakarta gets a steady supply of 12 hours daylight throughout the year, in the dry season the skies are clearer. Mornings are sunnier than the afternoons.

People and Culture
The city's dominant populations come from the surrounding areas of Java, many parts of Sumatera, Bali, and Sulawesi. Also making themselves known are those hailing from Papua, Indonesia's most eastern province, and Kalimantan, home of the Dayaks and one of the largest rain forests in the world. Over the centuries, these groups have kept their cultural roots, yet some have also inter-mixed, including with non-Indonesians, to form a special group of their own known as Orang Betawi.

Jakarta has its own special Betawi culture, which suggests the string of influences that reached the city's shores over the centuries. A long process of selectively borrowing and uniquely blending Chinese, Arab, Portuguese and Dutch elements with native ingenuity has produces the colorful, composite Betawi culture. The word "Betawi" is derived from Batavia, the old name of the capital during the Dutch administration.

Pockets of Betawi life are still culturally alive throughout Jakarta with celebrations of wedding and the rhythms of a distinctive style of music. From the Betawi wedding dress alone one gets a glimpse of the many influences that passed through the gateway of the nation. The Betawi bride wears a gown inspired by the Chinesse ceremonial dress. Although there are many variations of the wedding costume, all feature tassels covering the face and a red dress. The bridegroom - in striking contrast - dons a costume derived from Arab and Indian Sources.

Due to its very extensive size and population, Jakarta has been given the status of province, similiar to the other 33 provinces throughout Indonesia. As a province, Jakarta is headed by governor who is directly responsible to the President of Republic via the Minister of the Home Affair. Holding the dual position of city province and capital city, Jakarta is considered a Special Region (Daerah Khusus Ibukota - DKI).

Jakarta is further broken into five municipalities (kotamadya) and one regency (kabupaten) : Jakarta Pusat (central), Jakarta Utara (north), Jakarta Timur (east), Jakarta Selatan (south), Jakarta Barat (west ) and Kepulauan Seribu district administration (kabupaten). Each of these is headed by a mayor (walikota) and for regency is headed by regent (bupati). Each municipality is comprised of a number of kecamatan, headed by a camat, and each kecamatan is divided into kelurahan or 'village' level.

In many ways Jakarta is still just a collection of villages, with neighbourhoods providing the basic services such as garbage collection and security. This is organized by the Rukun Tetangga (RT - Neighborhood Head), who is an unpaid, elected official and carries out a number of duties. A neighborhood usually consist of around 20 households, and the RT is the head of this neighborhood watch system, carrying out registrations for residents and visitors, and keeping records of births, deaths and marriages for the government. A group of RT neighborhoods form a Rukun Warga (RW), wich is the next level below kelurahan.

Business Hours
Government offices are open from 8 am to 4 pm from Monday to Thursday; from 8 am to 2 pm on Friday and close on Saturday, Monday and holidays. Business offices are usually open from 9 am to 5 pm, and are generally closed on Saturdays. Banks are usually open from 8:30 am to 4 pm and close on Saturdays. Moneychangers are open longer hours.

Shops open around 9 am and shopping complexes, supermarkets and department stores stay open until 9 pm, though smaller shops may close at 5 pm. Sunday is a public holiday but many shops and airline offices open for least part of the day.

Adapted from

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