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Sulawesi at a glance
Sulawesi as known as Celebes is a wonderful island which its total land area is 227,000 square kilometres, little smaller than England and Scotland combined. The shape of the island is like an orchid with long and narrow peninsulas. No point of the mainland is more than 90 kms away from the sea. This makes the island has a long coast line. Most of the land are mountaineous in nature. The combination of the two offers wonderful sceneries both its shores and the highland.

The Portuguese  were the first to refer to Sulawesi as 'Celebes'. The meaning of this name is unclear; originally it did not refer to the entire island as the Portuguese thought Sulawesi was an archipelago. The modern name 'Sulawesi' possibly comes from the words sula ('island') and besi ('iron') and may refer to the historical export of iron from the rich Lake Matano iron deposits.

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Sulawesi has considerable mineral deposits. Parts of the north are currently experiencing a gold rush, oil has ben found south of the eastern arm of Sulawesi near Luwuk and large of reserves of natural gas exist near Lake Tempe. Buton Island off Southeast Sulawesi holds Asia�s Largest deposits of natural asphalt. The island�s largest mine, at Soroako on the shores of Lake Matano, is a huge deposit of low-grade nickel.

The strange orchid-shaped island of Sulawesi, can be recognized at first glance on any map of Indonesia. No other island is quite like it. The result of ancient geological upheavals, Sulawesi's twisted, elongated limbs have given rise to unique landscapes and an abundance of nature. Home to diverse and fascinating cultures, it is a land of exciting travel experiences.

The scenic seacoasts, rugged mountains and verdant rice-growing plains of South Sulawesi have their own unique fascination. With few sites of historical or artistic importance, the charm of the region lies in well-kept towns, and the extensive seacoasts where master shipbuilders construct massive wooden schooners, essentially Portuguese galleons, using only simple hand-tools and designs passed down by rote through the centuries.

Sulawesi strait is known as the border of Wallace's line, that separates two distinct sets of wildlife, in eastern and west Indonesia. The flora and fauna of this island are specific, such as ebony wood, babirusa and colorful maleo birds with their gigantic eggs. Since 30,000 years ago this land have been inhabited by human beings. The oldest dated archeological deposits are found in caves in limestone hills near Maros, about 30 kms to the north-east of Ujung Pandang the capital of South Sulawesi province. The probable older deposits, peeble tool and flakes, have been collected from river terraces in the Wallanae Valley between Soppeng and Sengkang, including the bones of extinct giant pigs and elephants.

Most of the island lies above 500 meters and fully one fifth lies above the 1.000 metre mark. The highest peaks are found in Central and Northern Sulawesi; the island�s highest point is on Mt. Rantemario, north of Enrekang, at 3.450 metres. Sulawesi has 11 active volcanoes and many fumaroles and volcanic springs. The most active are Soputan � Aeseput, Lokon � Empung, and Gunung Api Siau on the island of Siau, between the mainland and Sangihe island.
Sulawesi's colorful history is the story of spices and foreign merchants of mariners and sultans and of foreign power wresting control of the spice trade. Much of South Sulawesi's early history was written in old texts that can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

When the Portuguese, the first western visitors, reached Sulawesi in 1511, they found Makassar a thriving cosmopolitan entre-port where Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Siamese, Javanese, and Malays came to trade their manufactured metal goods and fine textiles for precious pearls, gold, copper, camphor and, of course, the invaluable spices - nutmeg, cloves and mace which were brought from the interior and from the neighbouring Spice Islands, the present day Moluccas.

During the heyday of spice trades, in 15th until 18th centuries South Sulawesi served as the gate to Moluccas islands which were the land of spices. The mighty Makassar and Bone Kingdoms played important roles in the history of eastern archipelago during that time.

By the 16th century, Makassar had become Sulawesi's major port and centre of the powerful Gowa and Tallo sultanates which between them had a series of 11 fortresses and strongholds and a fortified sea wall which extended along the coast.

The arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century, altered events dramatically. Their first objective was to create a hegemony over the spice trade and their first move was to capture the fort of Makassar in 1667, which they rebuilt and renamed Fort Rotterdam. From this base they managed to destroy the strongholds of the Sultan of Gowa who was then forced to live on the outskirts of Makassar. Prince Diponegoro; the national hero, born in 1785, to Sultan Hamengkubuwono III of Yogyakarta put up a great resistance against the Dutch in the Java wars of 1825-30. After his capture he was exiled to Fort Rotterdam until his death in 1855.

Although the Dutch controlled the coast, it was not until the early 20th century that they gained power over the interior of the south through a series of treaties with local rulers. Meanwhile Dutch missionaries converted many of the Toraja people to Christianity. By 1938 the population of Makassar had reached around 84,000 - a town described by writer Joseph Conrad as "the prettiest and perhaps, cleanest looking of all the towns in the islands". By the 1950's the population had increased to such a degree that many of the historic sites gave way to modern development and today you need to look very carefully to find the few remains of the city's once grand history.

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