Formerly called Ujung Pandang, the city of Makassar is the largest city in east Indonesia. Capital of South Sulawesi, Makassar enjoys a central location in the Indonesian archipelago and today Makassar is Indonesia’s busy air hub, connecting Sumatra, Java, Bali and Kalimantan in the west with Sulawesi, the Moluccas and Papua in the east.
In fact, ever since the 14th. century Makassar was already known as a thriving sea port where merchant vessels from far away China, India and Cambodia called regularly to trade in silks, tea and porcelain in exchange for cloves, nutmeg and pearls from the Moluccas and gold and forest products from Makassar and its hinterland. And when in the 16th century the Europeans discovered the sailing route to the coveted Spice Islands, the Spanish and Portuguese made Makassar their important entrepot to store valuable spices before shipment to Europe.
Meanwhile, in this southern peninsula of Sulawesi, the Bugis, Makassar and Mandar ethnic groups, known for their seafaring prowess and boat building skills, had already developed powerful kingdoms that encouraged trade, fishery, rice cultivation as well as literature and the arts. The Bugis epic poem I la Galigo is a recognized masterpiece in Bugis literature, as are the graceful dances and bright silk costumes of court dancers with their richly decorated accessories of wide gold bangles, opulent necklaces and tiaras.