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The Acheenese of Penang

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The Acheenese are people who originated from the province of Acheh in Sumatra. They form a significant portion of the Muslim population of Penang, particularly in the late 18th and early 19th century. Although Acheenese have today assimilated themselves into the mainstream Malay ethnic group, they have left behind their legacy and heritage, which is still visible today.

The Acheen Street Mosque is perhaps the most famous Acheenese heritage site in Penang. Although also called the Old Malay Mosque, it was established by Tengku Sheriff Syed Hussain Al Aidid, an Achenese clan leader who moved to Penang at the invitation of Captain Francis Light.

Acheen Street Mosque (4 July 2004)


The Acheenese established their village in the area surrounding the Acheenese mosque, including much of Acheen Street, Lumut Lane and the area that is now a vacant playground between Acheen Street and Armenian Street. Until the turn of the 20th century, the contiguous area from Acheen Street to Kampung Kolam was predominantly Muslim villages, with the Acheenese village merging with that of the Indian Muslims north of Armenian Street.

On the west coast of Penang Island, Pantai Acheh or Acheen Beach is another area on the island named after the Acheenese. As it faces Sumatra, Pantai Acheh was one of the first sights of Penang Island for arriving Acheenese.

Although there is no trace of their settlement here today, it is quite likely that they have established their village on this part of the island, and over time assimilated themselves to the local Malay population. The sighting of the full moon for the Hari Raya celebration may also have been conducted here since the early 19th century, and continues today at the Pusat Falak Sheikh Tahir.

Sheikh Tahir Observatory (17 April 2004)
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