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Indonesia - the archipelago with more than 17000 islands, 33 provinces, over 238 million people (it is the world's fourth most populous nation) and some 300 ethnic groups. It has the world's largest Muslim population among all countries of the world. But that is not what’s amazing about Indonesia. What is most remarkable is that in spite of so much diversity, the people of this country have managed to become a model of the maxim "unity in diversity". So smoothly and peacefully have they learnt to co-exist that one is filled with both envy and awe.

Indonesia is modern, developed and in synch with the contemporary world, yet it has not let go of it's distinct cultural roots. As for how they practice Islam, it is interesting to note that they are completely unapologetic about practicing their faith, proudly. Yet, in the true spirit of Islam, they represent a model of good ethics, moral and social values, and they do all of this smilingly.

Here are a few glimpses of Indonesia, taken whilst shuttling between Jakarta, Surabaya and the breath-taking Bali. – Text and photos by Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam

Surabaya, the second largest city of Indonesia, with the metropolis area home to 5.6 million people, is a huge sprawling hot city. While many prefer the typically developed and modern Jakarta, Surabaya has more character, with pockets of lower and upper income settlements side by side.
Surabaya, the second largest city of Indonesia, with the metropolis area home to 5.6 million people, is a huge sprawling hot city. While many prefer the typically developed and modern Jakarta, Surabaya has more character, with pockets of lower and upper income settlements side by side.
Majestic Bali's magic begins while you fly towards it and spot the many open-mouthed gaping volcanoes from the airplane window. Mount Agung and Mount Batur are the most well known.
Majestic Bali's magic begins while you fly towards it and spot the many open-mouthed gaping volcanoes from the airplane window. Mount Agung and Mount Batur are the most well known.
Bali's breath-taking beaches are stuff legends are made of. Surf and sand heaven as it is called, water sports are widely enjoyed. However, it is beaches like the Sanur beach in this picture, which make time stand still.
Bali's breath-taking beaches are stuff legends are made of. Surf and sand heaven as it is called, water sports are widely enjoyed. However, it is beaches like the Sanur beach in this picture, which make time stand still.
Balinese people, with their friendly disposition, are so used to tourists that they mingle easily and are not camera shy at all.
Balinese people, with their friendly disposition, are so used to tourists that they mingle easily and are not camera shy at all.
"Ubud", the quaint little town of "Eat Pray Love" fame, is Bali's hub of art and culture. This musician sits and strums his guitar on a roadside in Ubud, surrounded by arty handicrafts.
"Ubud", the quaint little town of "Eat Pray Love" fame, is Bali's hub of art and culture. This musician sits and strums his guitar on a roadside in Ubud, surrounded by arty handicrafts.
Gracious and peaceful, the Balinese do not mind mingling and sharing with tourists even during private ceremonies like this cremation ceremony.
Gracious and peaceful, the Balinese do not mind mingling and sharing with tourists even during private ceremonies like this cremation ceremony.
Hand-carved to perfection, the stone carvings on the homes and temples of this "Island of gods" are labours of love.
Hand-carved to perfection, the stone carvings on the homes and temples of this "Island of gods" are labours of love.
A Balinese beauty.
A Balinese beauty.
Bali has an over 90% Balinese-Hindu population, but tourists from every possible background are welcome to observe and enjoy their culture, specially the religious ceremonies in it's multitude of temples.
Bali has an over 90% Balinese-Hindu population, but tourists from every possible background are welcome to observe and enjoy their culture, specially the religious ceremonies in it's multitude of temples.
The first glimpses of Jakarta were from my hotel room's window. The "Welcome Monument" fountain is where thousands of cars are bottle-necked for hours. Jakarta's traffic is stuff nightmares are made of. It is a busy, busy city. Alive, throbbing, crazy. Yet, in it's chaos, there is a certain order.
The first glimpses of Jakarta were from my hotel room's window. The "Welcome Monument" fountain is where thousands of cars are bottle-necked for hours. Jakarta's traffic is stuff nightmares are made of. It is a busy, busy city. Alive, throbbing, crazy. Yet, in it's chaos, there is a certain order.
Evening walks in the upscale Jalan Thamrin: Endless malls, Kempinski, the Ritz, Mandarin Oriental, Armani, Gucci and Prada. Fashion is an occupation here, and this area can compete, if not win against, the Beverly Hills. Buying anything here, however, is tough, given the ever-dropping rate of the rupee.
Evening walks in the upscale Jalan Thamrin: Endless malls, Kempinski, the Ritz, Mandarin Oriental, Armani, Gucci and Prada. Fashion is an occupation here, and this area can compete, if not win against, the Beverly Hills. Buying anything here, however, is tough, given the ever-dropping rate of the rupee.
Music, art and literature seem to thrive well in Indonesia. "Low-Key" was the name of this saxophone player, who played for my friends and I, enjoying his skill and it's effect on us.
Music, art and literature seem to thrive well in Indonesia. "Low-Key" was the name of this saxophone player, who played for my friends and I, enjoying his skill and it's effect on us.
Piano recitals were more common than many other countries. In every mall and every hotel, lending a delightful effect to the ambiance of this country.
Piano recitals were more common than many other countries. In every mall and every hotel, lending a delightful effect to the ambiance of this country.
Surabaya is also known as the "City of Heroes". Here is one of Surabaya's "heroes", one of it's city-sweepers who keep the city delightfully clean for the most part.
Surabaya is also known as the "City of Heroes". Here is one of Surabaya's "heroes", one of it's city-sweepers who keep the city delightfully clean for the most part.
Indonesian women have moved much ahead of traditional dictates and are as prime a work force as Indonesian men, in every work sphere. Their culture, religion and specially the widely worn "hijaab" does not act as an obstacle.
Indonesian women have moved much ahead of traditional dictates and are as prime a work force as Indonesian men, in every work sphere. Their culture, religion and specially the widely worn "hijaab" does not act as an obstacle.
With 300 distinct native ethnic groups, Indonesia's ethnic diversity makes it culturally very rich. This child is of Chinese-Indonesian origin. The Chinese-Indonesians maybe just around 4% of the total population, but are controllers of a big lot of the private business and commerce concerns.
With 300 distinct native ethnic groups, Indonesia's ethnic diversity makes it culturally very rich. This child is of Chinese-Indonesian origin. The Chinese-Indonesians maybe just around 4% of the total population, but are controllers of a big lot of the private business and commerce concerns.
Caught on a street of Surabaya, here is a potpourri of Indonesian teens.  Indonesia is home to the world's fourth largest population of young people, according to the World Bank.
Caught on a street of Surabaya, here is a potpourri of Indonesian teens. Indonesia is home to the world's fourth largest population of young people, according to the World Bank.

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Comments (8) Closed



Tony Aug 31, 2012 04:25pm
Indonesia is perhaps the only Muslim country in the world which is secular, to some extent. In the Central Business District of Jakarta, you find a gigantic statue of Lord Krishna with warrior Arjun, both in a chariot of several running horses, where the Lord tells Gita to the warrior. You find image of Lord Ganesh on the Rp 20000 currency bill, whereas the University in Bandung too is named after the Hindu God. Ramayan is a national folklore of the country. The countrymen respect the religions of each other, and nobody is looked down upon as a kafir.
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amarpita Sep 01, 2012 09:25am
Why Indonesia is smiling, answer is given by you only "Bali has an over 90% Balinese-Hindu population, but tourists from every possible background are welcome to observe and enjoy their culture, specially the religious ceremonies in it's multitude of temples."
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Bobs Aug 31, 2012 03:38pm
Let Pakistan learn something from this country...that live life and let other live too cause life is too short to hate each other.
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dhk Aug 31, 2012 07:44pm
with more influence from saudi and middle east in general, i don't know how long it will last.
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dhk Aug 31, 2012 07:46pm
BTW, Bali island, being talke about so much, is mainly hindu not islam.
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KAJAH MYDEEN Sep 01, 2012 09:42am
WHY DID THE AUTHOR FAIL TO MENTION THAT SEX-SLAVES, PROSTITUTION, DRUGS, TRAFFICKING ABOUND IN "THIS-SMILING-INDONESIA"!! INDONESIANS CARRY THE TAG OF ISLAM AND THEY ARE NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ISLAM...AND ALLAAH KNOWS BEST.
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Hitesh Sep 01, 2012 11:09am
If Pakistan left and care for at least one pocket of 90% Hindu area then the face of Pakistan was also smiling and content !
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Moin Sep 01, 2012 05:59am
One good thing that Indonesia?s muslim population has done is to not forget their roots. Indonesia?s hindu past is still evident in their culture, folklore, traditions etc. They have been able to remain good muslims while not severing their relations with their forefathers and I think this is a big reason why peace and progress exists in that nation. Pakistan too should probably learn that being good muslims and keeping a connection with their Hindu/Buddhist past is possible and one need not give way for the other to exist.
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