Situated at the southern end of Peninsula Malaysia, Johor is the third largest state in the country. It was named after the Sungei Johor, which is the longest river in the state. Economically, it is one of the most important states in the country with various large plantations. They include commodities such as rubber, palm oil, and pineapple. On top of agricultural products, Johor is also becoming an industrial base. It has even developed to become one of the most populated states with Johor Bahru (JB), its capital city, as the second-largest city in Malaysia. A causeway and a railway line connect JB to Singapore, thus making it easier to travel to and from each country.
It is believed that Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last ruler of Malacca, founded Johor when he was forced to flee from the Portuguese in 1511. After his death, his son Alauddin Riayat Shah moved the capital to Kota Tinggi in Johor. He was able to build a strong kingdom, was feared by many, and was able to make Johor a preeminent Malay state. However, this did not mean the end of turmoil and fights. In the 16th Century, the state was attacked by the Portuguese followed by the Achinese from Sumatra, and later the Bugis from Sundawesi (Celebes). However, the Malay rulers of Johor managed to hold their own fort against all odds.
When Sir Stamford Raffles set foot in Singapore in 1819, he witnessed the factional war within the court of the Johor Sultan, which was divided by Malay and Bugis factions. He pensioned off the sultans and gave actual power to the "temenggong" (Malay minister). Temenggong Abu Bakar was given that privilege to rule Johor. He elevated himself to the position of Sultan of Johor in 1886. He persevered to build up the state and to modernize its administration. He established Johor Bahru (New Johor) as the capital city and began modernizing it. He was thus aptly called "The Father of Modern Johor". Johor finally became part of the Federation of Malaya in 1948.
Built in 1940 and located on Bukit Timbalan (Deputy Hill), this building houses the state secretariat, as well as other departments of the state government. Despite the appearances of other high-rise buildings in recent years, JB's skyline is still dominated by it. The Sarascenic character and the mosaic detail, particularly of the Grand Hall, makes this one of the most interesting buildings in Johor.
The Istana Besar (Grand Palace) was built by Sultan Abu Bakar in 1866. Sprawled over 53.8 hectares of fine, manicured lawns, the Palace itself depicts the neoclassical architecture of a past era. Today, it houses the many artifacts of the Johor Royal family, most of which were collected by the globe trotting Sultan Abu Bakar and his son, Sultan Ibrahim, on their many tours abroad. Its compound is beautifully landscaped with lush green lawns and gardens with flowers of every imaginable color. Nearby is a landscaped Japanese garden and a replica of a Japanese teahouse that was presented by the Crown Prince of Japan to the Sultan of Johor in 1936.
Built in 1900 with a blend of the traditional Islamic and Italian style architecture is the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque. Set atop a hill and unveiling a breathtaking view of the Straits of Johor, this mosque is considered one of the finest in the country. Taking 8 years to complete at a staggering cost (at that time) of RM400,000, it can accommodate 2,000 worshippers.
While many of JB's attractions have links to the state's early history, this is a new attraction that was built to commemorate the proclamation of JB as a city on 1st January 1994. It comprises of a clock tower that faces a series of fountains. Its raised structure and open lawns have proven to be a popular venue for outdoor performances and events.