Ampel : Surabaya's cultural jewel
Surabaya is the second largest city of Indonesia, but has more to offer than simply job opportunities, gigantic malls and traffic jams. This city is too often forgotten by tourists who would rather go to closer touristic places like Malang or Bali. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy some sightseeing there. If you are looking for what to do in Surabaya, you can visit a particular area rich in history: The Ampel district.
Ampel is located in the old part of the city, in the north of the city. This area is home to one of the oldest mosques in Indonesia, which was built by Sunan Ampel in the 15th century, a prominent religious figure who spread Islam in Java. This area quickly attracted Arab merchants who began settling there. Throughout time, it became a trading hub where Arab merchants but also Indians and other communities would sell their commodities.
Today, the dwellers of this area often have middle-eastern features, and could be mistaken for Arab merchants, even though few of them still speak Arabic. Their ancestors mostly came from the South-Arabian region called Hadhramaut, a desert region difficult to live in, which drove them to travel out, to trade and acquire necessary items in the rest of the world.
They traditionally take their spouses among local communities where they live, in Indonesia they mingled with Javanese, Madurese and Chinese-Indonesian communities. Their offspring became the Arab-Indonesians we know today, who have a rich and diverse cultural background.
This cultural mix is what makes Ampel so unique. Here you can lose yourself in the narrow streets, observe the traditional architecture of the old city, try the different foods available here and buy products and souvenirs you can only find in the Pasar Ampel. This area is the cultural jewel of Surabaya,
It is worth mentioning that the Ampel district has a strong Islamic dimension as it attracts religious tourists from all Indonesia, who come to see the tomb of Sunan Ampel and his mosque every Sunday. This area has always been a crossroad of cultures, and deserves a top spot in your visit journey in Surabaya, the fast developing city that offers many internship-abroad opportunities.