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Semarang, Indonesia

Semarang is a city on the north coast of the island of Java, Indonesia. It is the capital of the province of Central Java. It has an area of 225.17 km² and a population of approximately 1.5 million people, making it Indonesia's fifth largest city. Semarang is located at 6°58′S 110°25′E / 6.967°S 110.417°E / -6.967; 110.417. A major port during the Dutch colonial era, and still an important port today, the city has a dominant Javanese population.


Semarang's history dates back to the ninth century, when it was known as Bergota. By the end of fifteenth century, a Javanese Islamic missionary from nearby Sultanate of Demak with the name of Kyai Pandan Arang founded a village and an Islamic boarding school in this place. On May 1, 1547, after consulting Sunan Kalijaga, Sultan Hadiwijaya of Pajang declared Kyai Pandan Arang the first bupati (regent) of Semarang, thus culturally and politically, on this day Semarang was born.

In 1678, Sunan Amangkurat II promised to give control of Semarang to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a part of a debt payment. In 1682, the Semarang state was founded by the Dutch colonial power. On October 5, 1705 after years of occupations, Semarang officially became a VOC city when Susuhunan Pakubuwono I made a deal to give extensive trade rights to the VOC in exchange of wiping out Mataram's debt. The VOC, and later, the Dutch East Indies government, established tobacco plantations in the region and built roads and railroads, making Semarang an important colonial trading centre.

Even though in the Dutch East Indies Batavia was the political center of government and Surabaya became the center of commerce, the third largest city in Java was Semarang. As off VOC times Semarang had always been an important center of government for North Java, employing many Indo-European officials, until Daendels (1808–1811) simplified burocracy by eliminating this extra layer of officialdom. The city’s expansion declined until in 1830 the Java War ended and export commerce via the north of Java picked up again. Trade from the south and the middle of Java, where many Indo entrepreneurs rented and cultivated plantations, flourished. Soon the government invested in the establishment of a railway infrastructure which also employed many Indo people. The historic presence of a large Indo (Eurasian) community in the area of Semarang is also reflected by the fact a creole mix language called Javindo existed there. Nowadays there is no substantial Indo community left in Semarang, as most fled the city during the Indonesian national revolution in the middle of the 20th century.

In the 1920s, the city became a center of leftist and nationalist activism. With the founding of the Communist Party of Indonesia in the city, Semarang became known as the "Red City". The Japanese military occupied the city along with the rest of Java in 1942, during Pacific War of World War II. During that time, Semarang was headed by a military governor called a Shiko, and two vice governors known as Fuku Shiko. One of the vice governors was appointed from Japan, and the other was chosen from the local population.

After Indonesian independence in 1945, Semarang became the capital of Central Java province.


The city of Semarang divided into 16 subdistricts (kecamatan) and 177 villages (kelurahan). The 16 subdistricts are: West Semarang, East Semarang, Central Semarang, North Semarang, South Semarang, Candisari, Gajahmungkur, Gayamsari, Pedurungan, Genuk, Tembalang, Banyumanik, Gunungpati, Mijen, Ngaliyan, and Tugu.

A Bupati (regent) used to be the head of government in Semarang until 1906. After 1906, the city of Semarang was headed by a Mayor (Walikota).

Mayors of Semarang after Indonesian independence:

Moch. lchsan
Koesoebiyono (1949 - 1 July 1951)
RM Hadisoebeno Sosrowardoyo (1 July 1951 - 1 January 1958)
Abdulmadjid Djojoadiningrat (7 January 1958 - 1 January 1960)
RM Soebagyono Tjondrokoesoemo (1 January 1961 - 26 April 1964)
Wuryanto (25 April 1964 - 1 September 1966)
Soeparno (1 September 1966 - 6 March 1967)
R. Warsito Soegiarto (6 March 1967 - 2 January 1973)
Hadijanto (2 January 1973 - 15 January 1980)
Imam Soeparto Tjakrajoeda (15 January 1980 - 19 January 1990)
Soetrisno Suharto (19 January 1990 - 19 January 2000)
Sukawi Sutarip (19 January 2000 – 19 January 2010)
Soemarmo HS(19 January 2010–2015)

Semarang features a tropical wet and dry climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons. The city’s wet season runs from November through May, while the dry season covers the remaining five months. Unlike a number of cities and regions with a tropical wet and dry climate, average high and low temperatures are very consistent throughout the course of the year, with an average high temperature of around 31,1 degrees Celsius and average low temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius. Semarang on average sees slightly approximately 1500 mm of precipitation annually.

Geography and climate


Semarang is located on the northern coast of Java. The northern part of the city is built on the coastal plain while the southern parts, known as Candi Lama and Candi Baru, are on higher ground. Two Dutch-built aqueducts run through the city to control the yearly flood, one on the east side and one through the west side, essentially dividing the city into three major areas.


Semarang features a tropical rainforest climate that borders on a tropical monsoon climate. The city features distinctly wetter and drier months, with June through August being the driest months. However, in none of these months does average precipitation falls below 60 mm, hence the tropical rainforest categorization. Semarang on average sees approximately 2800 mm of rain annually. Average temperatures in the city are relatively consistent, with average temperatures hovering around 28 degrees Celsius.


The western part of the city is home to many industrial parks and factories. The port of Semarang is located on the north coast and it is the main shipping port for the province of Central Java. Many small manufacturers are located in Semarang, producing goods such as textiles, furniture, and processed foods. Large companies, such as Kubota and Coca-Cola, also have plants in Semarang or its outer towns.

Many major banks in Indonesia have large offices in Semarang. These include BCA, BNI, Panin Bank, HSBC, Permata, and Bank Mandiri. Most of these offices are located in the center of the city, especially around Jalan Pandanaran and Jalan Pemuda.

Hospitality is becoming increasingly important in Semarang. It is home to about a dozen upscale hotels that cater to business travelers and tourists, including Hotel Santika Premiere, Hotel Novotel, Hotel Horison Semarang, Hotel Ibis, Hotel Pandanaran, Hotel Ciputra Semarang, Hotel Ciputra, Grand Candi Hotel, Quest Aston Semarang , Patra Jasa and Hotel Gumaya.

The majority of stores in Semarang are small, family-owned businesses. Home consumer spending is mostly split between traditional wet markets ("Pasar") for locally-sourced fresh produce (fish, meat, vegetables) and western-style malls and supermarkets for manufactured, finished products (dry goods). Pasar Johar, Pasar Gang Baru, Pasar Jatingaleh, and Pasar Jati are examples of traditional wet markets. Hypermart, ADA Swalayan, Giant, and now Carrefour are the larger supermarket/department store chains in Semarang. Carrefour, a French chain, opened its first store in Central Java at DP Mall in Semarang. The other two malls are Ciputra Mall and the Java Supermall. A fourth mall, Paragon, is the largest shopping center in Central Java Province.



Semarang is served by Achmad Yani International Airport, with daily flights to other major Indonesian cities as well as to Singapore.


Taxis are widely available. The primary means of public transportation is by minibus, called "bis." These tend to be slow, old, and dilapidated. The better minibuses are the blue-colored ones fielded by the nationally-owned Damri company. Also widely available are the orange or yellow-colored converted minivans called angkot (from angkutan = transportation and kota = city). Angkot serve certain routes throughout the city and are operated privately. Though cheap, they are not usually known for being comfortable. Their fares are not fixed, and charged according to an unspoken but generally accepted consensus of fare to distance ratios, a confusing system which takes familiarity and time to learn. Semarang's two largest bus terminals are Mangkang and Terboyo.

A bus rapid transit serves Semarang, called Trans Semarang.

Semarang has a toll road, Jalan Tol or the Semarang Artery. Currently, Semarang-Solo Toll Road is under construction.

Semarang is located in Indonesian National Route 1, that connects it to Merak and Ketapang (Banyuwangi). Indonesian National Route 14 towards Bawen starts here.


Semarang played a key role in railway history of Indonesia. It is the place where the first railway network was built in Indonesia. The railway connects Kemijen and Tanggung, and opened for public in August 10, 1867. In Dutch colonial era, there was a tram system in Semarang before being dismantled in early 1940s.

There are two large train stations in Semarang, Semarang Poncol and Semarang Tawang. The two stations operate train service to Tegal, Slawi, Bandung, Jakarta, Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Cepu, Bojonegoro, Jombang, Kediri, Malang, and Surabaya. Other smaller train stations are Mangkang, Jerakah, and Alastuwa.


The main seaport for this transportation mode is the Tanjung Mas seaport.


The population of Semarang is predominantly Javanese, though with smaller numbers of people from many regions in Indonesia. The city is known for its large ethnically Chinese population. The main languages spoken are Indonesian and Javanese. Sometimes Hokkien Chinese or Mandarin is spoken among the Chinese residence.


Semarang is home to several notable universities and high schools. A notable state-owned university at Semarang is Diponegoro University and Universitas Negeri Semarang or, in English, the Semarang State University. Other notable universities are Soegijapranata Catholic University, Sultan Agung Islamic University, and Dian Nuswantoro University. Semarang has some medical schools that offer school of medicine, nursing etc, such as Faculty of Medicine Diponegoro University, Faculty of Medicine UNISSULA, and Faculty of Medicine UNIMUS. Among the other schools is Karangturi, a national private school which has facilities for children in Kindergarten through senior high school. Karangturi is known for having a high proportion of Chinese-Indonesian students.

Sights, temples and monuments

As a result of its large ethnically Chinese population, the city boasts several Chinese temples. These include Sam Po Kong (Gedung Batu), built in honour of the Chinese Great Admiral Zheng He who visited the area in 1405. A 10.7 meter-tall bronze statue about Rp.1 billion ($115,000) with four languages (Indonesian language, English, Chinese and Japanese) of his brief history will be complemented the temple. The others are Tay Kak Sie Temple. Blenduk Church, a 1753 Protestant church built by the Dutch, is located in the old town (called "Oudstad"). Tugu Muda (Youth Monument), a monument to heroes of Indonesia's independence struggle, is located in a large roundabout surrounded by famous buildings such as Gedung Lawang Sewu and the Semarang Cathedral. Jalan Pemuda, one of the roads leading into the roundabout, is a major shopping street. The Cathedral of the Holy Rosary is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Semarang.


Semarang is widely known for its Bandeng presto (pressure-cooked milkfish), Lumpia, Wingko, and Tahu Gimbal.

Sister cities

Brisbane, Australia

City Planning of Semarang during Dutch Colonial

The era of Classical Indische Town (1678-1870)

Semarang was handed by the Sultan of Mataram to the Dutch East Indies in 1678. The city was pictured as a small settlement with a pious Muslim area called Kauman, a Chinese quarter, and a Dutch fortress. The fortress has a pentagonal form with only one gate in the south and five monitoring towers to protect the Dutch settlement from rebellion actions, segregating the spaces between Dutch settlement and other areas . In fact, the city of Semarang was only referred to the Dutch quarter while the other ethnic settlement were considered as villages outside the city boundary. The city, known as de Europeeshe Buurt, was built in classical European style with church located in the centre, wide boulevards and streets skirted by beautiful villas. According to Purwanto (2005), the urban and architectural form of this settlement is very similar to the design principles applied in many Dutch cities, which begun to concern on the urban beautification.

Due to the long and costly Java War, there were not much of funding from the Dutch East Indies government, effecting the development of Semarang. The majority of land was used for rice fields and the only small improvement was the development of surrounding fortress. Although less developed, Semarang has a fairly arranged city system, in which urban activities were concentrated along the river and the settlement was linked to a market where different ethnic groups met to trade. The existence of the market, in the later years, become a primary element and a generator of urban economic growths.

An important influence on urban growth was the Great Mail Road project in the 1847, which connected all the cities in northern coast of Central and East Java and made Semarang as the trade centre of agricultural production. The project was soon followed by the development of the Netherlands Indies railway and the connecting roads into the inner city of Semarang at the end of nineteenth century. Colombijn (2002) marked the development as the shift of urban functions, from the former river orientation to all services facing the roads.

The growth of modern city (1870-1922)

Improved communication, as the result of the Mail and Railway projects, had brought an economic booming for the city in the 1870s. There were hospital, churches, hotels, and large houses built along the new main roads; Bojongscheweg, Pontjolscheweg, and Mataram street, causing denser population in the ethnic settlements and creating the urban kampong. There was also a city tram connecting the inner city to and fro the suburbs in 1892. In addition, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 improved the global economic condition, elevating trade between Europe and Asia as well as opening new opportunities for city development. The government of Dutch East Indies had allowed private sectors to invest capital in agribusiness and generated various forms of employment, which affected on the deformation of the former Dutch quarter into offices area.

Urban growth had made acutely dense the urban kampong, reaching the number of 1000 inhabitants per hectare and degrading the quality of living condition. In this early twentieth century, mortality rate was very high due to the overcrowding and lack of hygiene that triggered the invasion of cholera and tuberculosis. Cobban (1993) noted the ethical movement of kampongverbetering led by Henry Tillema in 1913 and the concern of the Advisor for Decentralisation for kampong improvement through the betterment of public toilets, drainage, and the planning of public housing. The municipal council of Semarang had also seen the importance to separate residential area from the city as working place.

In 1917, a healthy housing project was implemented in the Southern part of Semarang called Candi Baru. Thomas Karsten, the advisor for city planning, transformed the concept of ethnic segregation that divided previous urban settlements into a new housing district plan based on economic classes. Although practically the three ethnic groups were also divided into three economic classes where the Dutch and rich Chinese occupied the largest lots in the housing district, Karsten had effectively emerged the developed district by integrating the road network, introducing newly improved public wash and bathing, squares and sporting facilities that can be utilised communally. Following the Candi Baru, there were three other housing plans between 1916-1919 to accommodate 55% population increase in Semarang; 45,000 Javanese, 8500 Chinese and 7000 Europeans. Karsten marked a new approach to town planning which emphasis on the aesthetic, practical and social requirements, articulated not in terms of racial terms but economic zones.

Driven by economic growth and spatial city planning, the city had doubled in size and expanded to the south by the 1920s, creating a nucleus of a metropolis where multi-ethnic groups lived and traded in the city. The villages in the suburbs such as Jomblang and Jatingaleh steadily became the satellite towns of Semarang, more populated with a bigger market area. Before the invasion of Japan in 1942, Semarang had already become the capital of Central Java Province, as the result of trade and industrial success and spatial planning.

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