Since early in the last millennium, the small islands of Ternate and Tidore in the Moluccas were the only source for cloves in the world. Indian, Arab, Chinese and Javanese merchants used to call on these islands to carry home this precious cargo which sold at exorbitant prices in Europe and the Orient. Cloves, together with nutmeg and mace from the Banda islands were used to flavor and preserve food, as medicines and even as aphrodisiacs.
But after the Crusades, the trade route to the Far East was blocked for the Europeans, so the Portuguese, Spaniards, British and the Dutch were determined to discover for themselves the fabled Spice islands.
Vasco da Gama was the first to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa to reach India. Then, from India, the Portuguese finally found the route to the Moluccas in 1521, and arrived in the spice islands of Ternate and Tidore and the Banda islands, then the only source for nutmeg and mace. To get there, the Portuguese seafarers traveled 14,000 kilometers – nearly 9,000 miles – crossing uncharted seas, and overcoming storms, high swells and tropical monsoons.
At the time, there was already a thriving sultanate (kingdom) on Ternate. But with the arrival of the Spaniards, the Dutch and the British, the fight began among the European powers for the monopoly of the spice trade, which was finally wrested by the Dutch.
Towards the end of the 16th century, Dutch governor general Jan Pieterszoon Coen replanted cloves to Ambon where the Dutch were in control, then brutally wiped out all the clove plants on Ternate and Tidore. These actions, known as the hongi expeditions, instantly doused the domination of the sultanates of Ternate and Tidore and decimated the main income of the islands’ population. From that time onwards, Ternate and Tidore became forgotten pages in history.
Ternate and Tidore are two almost identical small islands, west of the large island of Halmahera, almost facing one another, each shaped by a volcano emerging from the deep Maluku Sea. While if Ternate is dominated by Mount Gamalama, in Tidore rises Mount Kiemtabu.
Today, the town of Ternate is the capital city of the province of North Maluku, home to two thirds of the islands population, who are predominantly Muslim. Here, you can visit historical relics and observe local cultural traditions. The city is a modern hub and a base for the commercial activities of the island. It has business centers, historical attractions, transportation links, and tourism services. The city is also in the midst of development to reform the building and structural damage sustained during the 1999 conflict between Muslims and Christians. In contrast, Tidore is dotted with small villages around the island.
The business district of Ternate is an interesting place to take a walk and see the tasteful food sellers which adorn the streets. The walkway is so long it has five names; Jl Sultan Khairun, Jl Merdeka, Jl Mononutu, Jl Hasan Esa and eventually Jl Raya Bastiong. There are also plans to develop a mega mall.
The volcanic landscape of Ternate has given the island its fertile soil and beaches with black glittering sands. Today, all around the island are colorful boats in various sizes lying in the shallow turquoise water, shielded by swaying coconut trees.
For culinary and history lovers, the island is a flavorsome and historical delight that will satisfy any craving for knowledge or desire to enjoy appetizing cooking. Entertainment from the friendly locals is also something to experience.
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