Muar (GPS: 2.06361, 102.57659) is a town on the west coast of Johor. It is also the name of the district surrounding it. Regarded as a royal town, Muar was declared Bandar Maharani Bandar Diraja on 24 November, 2012. Muar is located on the northwestern part of the state. It is by the bank of the Muar River. This somewhat sleepy town has a substantial Chinese population, hence many of the shops in town are Chinese owned. The district of Muar used to cover both Muar Town and Tangkak. But since Tangkak was ungraded to a full district level, called Ledang District, the Muar district is reduced to only the area south of Muar River.
Muar is a very old town by Malaysian standard. It is even older than Malacca, having been mentioned as a stopover of Parameswara on his route north, prior to founding Malacca. Parameswara is said to have founded a settlement at Pagoh in upper Muar. It is also in Muar that one can find the only remaining tomb of a Malacca sultan, that of Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah (1477-1488) which escaped demolition by the Portuguese, a fate that befall the other Malacca sultans' tombs. The Portuguese built a fort in Muar, called the Fortaleza de Muar, to repel attacks from the Dutch and the Acehnese.
When the British made Dato' Temenggong Daing Ibrahim the de facto ruler of Johor, the actual ruler, Sultan Ali, ruled over an independent kingdom at Muar called Kesang. Sultan Ali should in fact be ruler over all Johor, but due to his weakness, the Temenggong became instead the de facto ruler. After the death of the Temenggong, the throne of Johor passed to the Temenggong's eldest son, who ascended the throne as Maharaja Abu Bakar and eventually Sultan Abu Bakar.
After the death of Sultan Ali, his eleven-year-old son Tengku Mahmood was chosen as his successor, bypassing the rightful heir, his eldest son Tengku Alam. When Colonel Archibald Anson, the Acting Governor of the Straits Settlements, wanted to put Muar under the control of Maharaja Abu Bakar, Tengku Alam declared war. The conflict came to be known as the Jementeh Civil War. The army of Maharaja Abu Bakar under the leadership of the maharaja's cousin, Ungku Ahmad, an abled tactician, easily defeated Tengku Alam.
As a result of the war, the town of Muar was opened by Maharaja Abu Bakar. It was bestowed the name Bandar Maharani by Maharaja Abu Bakar in 1884. The following year, Maharaja Abu Bakar was proclaimed sultan. He reigned for another ten years until his death in 1895.
Timothy Tye and Goh Chooi Yoke at the Bangsa Malaysia mural (11 September, 2016)
360° View of Muar on Google Maps Street View
You can catch buses from Johor Bahru (2 1/2 hours) or Kuala Lumpur (2 1/2 hours). If you are driving, you should exit the North-South Expressway at Tangkok (Exit 235) if coming from the north, and at Pagoh (Exit 238) if from the south.
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