Just over an hour of easy driving, some 56 kilometers north of Padang, lies the harbour town of Pariaman, located along a beautiful 7-mile coastline. Once known as a thriving seaport, it is now better known for its Tabuik celebrations, the reenactment of the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of the grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad, Hasan and Husyein along with their family members, which day is better known as the day of Ashura. Therefore, a visit to Pariaman would be best during the first ten days of the month of Muharam, or the first month in the Moslem lunar calendar, when the Tabuik tower is ritually prepared, watched over, and the day massively celebrated.
In its heydays the port of Pariaman was crowded with local and international merchants. Centuries ago, this was the port where traders from the Minangkabau interior of West Sumatra brought gold, pepper, honey, and candlenuts and other local produce to sell and exchange at Pariaman. In the 15th Century, Pariaman became known as an important trading center for Camphor and pepper. While, during the early 17th century, the Sultanate of Aceh came to rule the area. However, with the arrival of the Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), which came to dominate the Indonesian archipelago’s strategic trading ports, Pariaman also fell under the control of the VOC. Historical records recount that the people were unhappy under the Dutch and launched continuous revolts for near to a century, forcing the VOC to finally abandon this port.