Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Benteng Inong Balee (fort)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Having visited admiral Keumala Hayati's grave, of course one should also go to the fort that is connected with her life story.

The fort is situated on a steep cliff of about 10 m high, a well-chosen location overlooking the bay of Malahayati harbour. The remaining fortifications consist of nothing more than a few low walls of chalk rocks with embrasures in it for discharging cannons at enemy ships. Knurled trees grow on the wall and over the embrasures. A plaque at the site states:
“This fort constructed by Sultan Ala ad-Din Ri'ayat Syah Sayyid al-Mukammil (1589-1604), is the centre of defense for the seas of the Malacca Straits. Apart from that, this fort was used also as a dormitory for the Inong Balee militia (widows whose husbands were sacrificed through war).”

According to the article by historian Deni Sutrisna (website below, in Indonesian) the fort may have housed as many as 2000 female warriors.

We went down a path on the right from the fort to the beach. From there one can look up at the cliff on top of which the wall was constructed - the wall itself is invisible behind shrubs. The beach was deserted and the sea quiet. We found it a good place for a swim without the 'full dress' that Aceh custom requires of bathing women.

It drew our attention, when visiting in December 2010 that an area inland of the fort had recently been cleared of vegetation. Later we found a weblog by a local citizen protesting the plans to build a hotel adjacent to the historic site. We agree, let them build the hotel near the main road and not spoil the view of the site!

Directions: About 3 km east of Malahayati harbour a weathered - practically unreadable - signboard shows the way to the fort. It takes a walk of about 1 km from the main road along an earthen - and in the rainy season muddy - road.

Website: http://balarmedan.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/benteng-inong-balee-dan-kompleks-makam-laksamana-malahayati-di-kabupaten-aceh-besar-provinsi-nanggroe-aceh-darussalam.


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