Keraton (Istana Kesultan)
Built in 1834 and restored in semi-colonial style, the Sultan's Palace is still a family home. However, there is a museum section (donation appropriate) containing a small but interesting collection of historic weaponry plus memorabilia from the reigns of past sultans whose lineage dates back to 1257. The airy veranda offers wide views towards Halmahera. The first step of a visit is signing in at the sek-retariat kiosk . If you're lucky, you might even be granted an audience with the sultan's enchanting English-speaking sister and hear tales of the royal family's amazing life sagas. Without a special invitation from the sultan, visitors won't see the famous mahkota (royal crown). Topped with cassowary feathers, it supposedly has magical powers including growing 'hair' which needs periodic cutting. Some claim it can even stop Gamalama from erupting. The mahkota is only worn at coronations and during the Legu Gam ceremonies, Ternate's main festival ( 6-13 April), culminating on the sultan's birthday and involving a variety of traditional musicians, dancers and performers.
On the 27th evening of Ramadan, Laila Tulqadr celebrations see the sultan's procession arrive to a mass of flaming torches at the royal masque , which has impressive heavy interior timberwork.
Kota Ternate's three fortresses were (re)built by the Dutch between 1606 and 1610. By the 1990s just decrepit ruins survived, but since heavy-handedly over-renovated. The biggest, most central but least complete is the 1606 Benteng Oranye, once headquarters of the Dutch VOC operation and later the residence of Ternate's Dutch governors. Today you can wander some sections of cannon-topped bastion accessed through a hefty, restored gateway arch.
Dinky little Benteng Tolukko (10,000Rp donation appropriate), the first Portuguese stronghold on Ternate (1512), has beautifully manicured floral gardens and attractive sea views. The family living beside the entrance keeps the key.
The 1540 Benteng Kalamata has an unusual waterside location 1km southwest of Bastiong, waves lapping right up to its angled walls. There are great views across to Tidore. Take Rua, Sasa or Jambula bemos.
With an eye-catching dome covered in stylised Arabic calligraphy (the repeating name of Allah), the new Masjid Al Munawwah is so vast that it overshoots its new land-reclamation site with outer minarets rising directly out of the sea. Dozens more mosques attractively pimple the skyline, several churches have been rebuilt and there's a colourful 2007 Chinese temple replete with gaudy rearing dragons
The town's biggest mosque, Mas/id Raya al-Fatah (Jl Sultan Babullah) is a modern concrete affair. The fanciful green Masjid /ami next door is much more photogenic. Maranatha Cathedral (Jl Partimura) has a staid if iconic tower. Francis Xavier Cathedral (Jl Pattimura) has a facade crusted with saint statues and silver-strut steeples which glimmer mysteriously. Undramatic Benteng Victoria (out of bounds, army use) is the Dutch-era fortress. It's fronted by a gilded statue of Siamet Riyadi, an Indonesian commander who died retaking the place from RMS rebels in 1950. A bellicose Pattimura Memorial brandishes hh parang (machete) and salawaka (spindly Malukan shield) in the park behind. A hilltop Martha Christina Tiahahu statue commemorates Pattimura's contemporary and enjoys wonderful views.
Allied servicemen who died in WWII are remembered in a beautifully manicured Commonwealth War Cemetery (Tantui), shaded beneath towering trees fuzzed with epiphytes. In the southern suburbs, the Siwa Lima Museum has two main buildings separated by 500m of road snaking beautifully up through steep, lovingly tended gardens. The upper ethnographic building displays regional costumes, building styles, totems, doti-doti (voodoo-style curse-boats), local fabrics, weapons and kepala desa 'power sticks'. Diorama windows demonstrate sopi distillation and sago production and there's a walk-through recreation of a neolithic cave dwelling. The lower maritime museum lacks English captioning but the Crustacea, model boats and gigantic whale skeletons are self-explanatory. Air Salobar mobils (2000Rp) from Ambon turn around at the gardens' eastern gateway. An ojek to the door saves the sweaty climb.
Festivals & Events
The annual Darwin-Ambon Yacht Race, once Ambon's main international sporting event, restarted modestly in 2007. The Daiwin-Saumlaki Rally (www .sailindonesia.net) also sails to Ambon.
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