If you think this is a post about food or culinary thing, this is not. You can stop reading now.
No, I’m kidding. Please continue reading but when I said that this is not a post about food, I mean it (I thought some of you might have mistaken the title because of the word ‘deli’). In fact, this is a brief history about a once wealthy sultanate in North Sumatra called Deli.
In the 19th century, a sultanate in North Sumatra emerged as one of the wealthiest monarchies in the region, largely owing to Sultan Mahmud Al Rasyid’s (the reigning sultan at that time) decision to give the Dutch the right to manage and cultivate land in Deli. The Dutch, with better knowledge and resources in land cultivation than the locals, decided to plant tobacco on the given land. It turned out that Deli tobacco was highly favored by Europeans, hence soaring its price at the world’s tobacco market in Bremen, Germany. This had led to the booming of investment in Deli, especially in tobacco plantation.
During its heyday, Medan as the capital of the Sultanate of Deli witnessed rapid construction, particularly royal palaces. The most exquisite of all, Maimoon Palace, was built in the late 19th century based on a design from a Dutch architect, T.H. van Erp, a captain at Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army). Adorned with Malay and European architectural features, Maimoon Palace not only served as the sultan’s palace, but also a Malay and Islamic cultural center.
However after the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia, all powers possessed by local kings and sultans were forcefully ceded to the central government, leaving only one monarch which still retains its power until today, the Sultan of Yogyakarta — head of the Special Region of Yogyakarta in Java, due to its past active involvement to support Indonesia’s independence. Currently the Sultanate of Deli still exists with hereditary rulers just like it used to be. Nevertheless, it merely is now a cultural symbol of North Sumatra’s Malay heritage.
As a Muslim state, the Sultanate of Deli also built mosques all over its territory. However, the largest and most beautiful one is Al Mashun Mosque, or much well-known as The Grand Mosque (see the first image on this post). Located only 200 m from Maimoon Palace, The Grand Mosque was the state’s mosque where the sultan and other members of the royal family went for Friday prayer or other occasions. Originally the mosque was planned to be built around the same time with the construction of Maimoon Palace. However, since van Erp was then assigned to assist the restoration of Borobudur Temple in Java, a new architect was appointed to design the mosque. Adolf J. Dingemans, the newly appointed architect, created a design for the mosque combining the elements of Arabic, Indian, Spanish and Malay architecture. Upon its completion, the mosque was also embellished with stained glass from China and Italian marble.
First used in 1909, The Grand Mosque has never undergone any restoration which it desperately needs. A restoration plan was actually made by the North Sumatran government. However, many experts and cultural leaders opposed to the plan as it would damage its original artistic and cultural values. I just hope another better and more proper plan is being prepared at the moment so that this beautiful heritage would still stand for generations to come.
Related Post: Medan: Unexpectedly Interesting