Muar (also referred to as Bandar Maharani) is a town in northwestern Johor, Malaysia. The name "Muar" is also used for the name of its district, which formerly sub-divided between the Town of Muar and the sub-district of Tangkak.
Tangkak sub-district has been upgraded into a full district known as Ledang District. Muar district formerly borders Malacca on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Upon the upgrading of Ledang District, the Muar District now covers only the area south of Sungai Muar, whilst the northern area is within Ledang District. However, both administrative regions are still collectively called Muar by their residents.
Muar district formerly covers 2346.12 km², with a population of 328,695 (2000). The name originated from the word Muara or estuary in Malay. The whole Muar district (North and South) is roughly the size of two and a half Singapore. On 19 December 2006, unusually heavy rainfall in the states of Johor and Melaka resulted in the worst flooding in southern Peninsular Malaysia. Muar was not spared from this dreadful disaster which lasted almost a month. Many areas of Muar such asPagoh, Lenga, Kundang Ulu, Bukit Gambir and Sawah Ring were seriously flooded with some areas up to 10 feet. About 22,933 people were evacuated to relief centres (reported by The Star, 25 Dec 2006). Flood waters also damaged freshwater pumps and electric generators.
Consequently, in an ironic twist, water supply was cut off in Muar for almost one week. During that period which coincided with the Christmas and the Aidil Adha celebrations, most residents in Muar could not obtain clean fresh water supply and people had to resort to collecting rain water. Overall, the flood resulted in huge losses in Muar where many possessions and infrastructure were destroyed. Muar District was formerly divided into two entities, administratively, Muar town and Tangkak. With the upgrading of Tangkak sub-district into a full district of Ledang, Muar town is administered by Muar Municipal Council, while Tangkak is now administered by Ledang District Council. Muar also has a marine police base. A new administration centre, called Muar Two, is being planned for Muar town. The new administration centre which will house all the federal and state administrative buildings will be situated on the inner ring road of Muar town.
Muar is known as the furniture capital of Malaysia. It has more furniture factories than any other towns or cities in Malaysia. In addition, Muar is also the home of two factories belonging to multinational companies, i.e., SGS-Thomson (ST) Microelectronic and Pioneer. Industrial estates within Muar district are located at Tanjung Agas, Pagoh and Tangkak, Parit Bakar.
There are many supermarkets in Muar, such as Giant, The Store, One-Stop, Astaka and K-Mart. Wetex Parade (housing The Store) is the only shopping mall available in Muar at present, located at Jalan Ali, in the heart of the business and shopping district. In the past five years, a new business centre has sprung up along Jalan Bakri at the junction of Jalan Haji Jaib, Jalan Bakri and Kampung Kenangan Tun Dr. Ismail, where the Econsave Hypermarket has opened for business. Besides, new commercial development which is expected to house a private hospital and including Giant Hypermarket (opened since mid of 2007) on the northern bank of Muar River, on a site reclaimed from amangrove forest. Latest news reported that Bank of China is going to open its second branches at Muar. This will be its first branch in Johore as well. The location of this new bank probably will be nearby Bakri Roundabout.
The 14 km Muar Bypass highway (2 lane dual carriageway) inclusive of a picturesque Muar Second Bridge that was completed in 2005 is the latest landmark of the town. The highway that traverses through the outskirts of the town would ease the journey by diverting the traffic from Muar town, and thus, alleviating the congestion at the older Sultan Ismail Bridge. Such highway (or ring road) is normally a feature for Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, Malacca and Seremban which are all state capitals. Although Muar does not enjoy the status of a major city, its provision in Muar has illustrated the economic importance of Muar and would enable Muar to regain its former spot as the second largest town in Johor. Besides federal roads, Muar is also accessible via the North-South Expressway through the Tangkak and Pagoh interchanges which are located 20 km and 30 km from the town, respectively.
Ferry services to Dumai, Sumatra, Indonesia is also available on regular basis, departing from the Custom Jetty. Muar is the only district (besides the state capital Johor Bahru) in Johor that has its own Custom and Excise Duty Department office and checkpoint at its own jetty.
Rows of well preserved pre-war buildings still dominate the town’s architecture. These buildings still house various shops along Jalan Abdullah, dubbed as Muar’s central business district. Prominent heritage buildings, among others, are the Abu Bakar Building (completed in 1929) that houses the town’s administrative offices and the Custom building (completed in 1909). The age of most buildings can be easily identified since the date of completion (ranging from 1930s to 1950s) were cast on the buildings’ exterior. These buildings are the priceless heritage that portrays Muar’s prosperous past and appreciating this splendour would bring one’s memory back to the nostalgic yesteryears.
Another attraction of Muar town is Taman Tanjung Emas, the town’s park, which is located at the estuary of Muar river. It is outlined by a picturesque esplanade overlooking the scenic river. The park, which is much visited during the weekends, also houses a 9-hole golf course. A 45 minute to one hour river cruise departing from this park is also available to offer tourists views of Muar town from the river.
The Sultan Ibrahim Jamek Mosque is one of the major landmarks of Muar town. Completed in 1927, its architectural design has British influence. The mosque is noted for its four-storey minaret in its backyard. The latest icon of the town is the Sultan Ismail Mosque, located at the northern bank of Muar River in Tanjung Agas. Its design is similar to the first mosque. Completed in 2002, it is the biggest mosque in town. Both mosques offer a breathtaking scenery when viewed from the Muar River mouth, while on a river cruise.
Muar is also famous for its food. The most well-known local food are "Otak-otak" and "Mee Bandung Muar", a rich spicy noodles. Muar is also known for being one of the few places where satay (a Malaysian delicacy of skewered grilled chicken or beef) is served for breakfast. The most famous place to have mee bandung and satay for breakfast is along Jalan Abdullah.
Visiting some restaurants and coffee shops in Muar would give nostalgic experience since the environment and food/beverage being served have not changed since the 60s and 70s. Coffee served by these restaurants has its unique taste which is believed to be comparable to the famed Kluang coffee.
Muar has a famous street, "Jalan Haji Abu", which is well known for its variety of food. Many local Chinese food are available here, including fish ball and fish cake with wanton mee, otak-otak, Fried Oyster Omelette and etc. The prawn noodles here known as hey mee, cooked differently from the rest of the country. Instead of being made as a soup, in Muar they prepare it dry. You can also find a kind of typical Hokkien stir fried "raw wheat flour pasta in vermicelli style" delicacy that usually hard to come by elsewhere but it is easily available in Muar. This is because "raw wheat flour pasta in vermicelli style" or mee suah is very difficult to handle and at the same time trying to maintain its complete "wholesome" look without ending up as a pile of gooey cooked wheat flour is a unique skill. And this skill is passing down from generation to generation. That's why not many people can cook it, not even mention stir fried it.
Besides that, Muar has two well-known Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball shops located at Jalan Meriam. The chicken rice is made into sphere shapes, which look like tennis balls. Even the size of Muar chicken rice ball is normally much bigger than its counterpart in Melaka/Malacca. Muar Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball is the authentic chicken rice ball, the Melaka/Malacca Hainanese chicken rice ball is actually copied from Muar and then they applied modern marketing technique on this cuisine and make it sounds like an authentic Melaka/Malacca dish. Actually, the chicken rice ball was originated among Muar Hainanese.
Muar and Tangkak are served by two government hospitals as well as numerous primary health centres.
The two hospitals are:
Muar is the birthplace of ‘Ghazal', Johor’s traditional musical heritage, which has a Persian origin. Muar is also the birthplace of Zapin Lenga, it is a combination of semi-squatting style Malay dance with Arabic influence. The dancers usually perform in pairs and are accompanied by a traditional music ensemble normally consists of the gambus, accordion, violin, marwas (bongos), rebana (drum) and dok. Usually Zapin music is very alive and energetic.
'Kuda Kepang', a traditional horse dance originating from Indonesia is believed to be best performed by the Muarians of Javanese origin especially the Sg. Balang troupe from Bukit Gambir.
It is generally acknowledged that the local dialect of Malay spoken here (and throughout the state of Johor) is the standard version of the language adopted by the country.
Other than the above, the Muar Chinese community is well known for their lion dance. Muar "Guan Sheng Temple" had been world champion for 10 times consecutively in the International Championship for Lion Dance.
Among the Indian community, Muar has a famous hill temple called the Nagamalai Koil Alaiyam in Bukit Pasir. The temple is very auspicious among Hindus from Malaysia and Singapore and is believed to be the third most important hill temple in Malaysia after Batu Caves temple in Kuala Lumpur and Thannimalai temple in Penang.