Past Cities

Besut, Terengganu, Malaysia

Besut, a district located in the northeastern state of Terengganu, Malaysia, is a place steeped in history and cultural richness. Nestled between the South China Sea to the east and the mountainous Titiwangsa Range to the west, Besut has witnessed the ebb and flow of human civilization for centuries.

The geographical setting of Besut has played a crucial role in shaping its history. Bordered by lush forests, fertile plains, and pristine coastlines, the region provided favorable conditions for early human settlement. The indigenous Orang Besut, who belonged to the Proto-Malay ethnic group, were the first inhabitants of the area. These early settlers relied on the bountiful resources of the land and the sea, engaging in activities such as agriculture, fishing, and trade.

Besut witnessed a significant transformation during the 15th century with the arrival of Islam. Arab traders and Islamic scholars, known as da'is, played a vital role in spreading the teachings of Islam to the local population. The conversion of the people of Besut to Islam led to the establishment of the Sultanate of Terengganu, under which Besut fell as a subordinate region.

The political environment of Besut was primarily influenced by the Sultanate of Terengganu, which held power over the region. The sultans played a pivotal role in governing and administering Besut, allowing the district to flourish economically. Trade, particularly in commodities such as rice, fish, and textiles, became a cornerstone of the local economy. The strategic location of Besut along the coastal trade routes of the South China Sea further enhanced its economic significance, facilitating trade with neighboring kingdoms and international merchants.

In the late 19th century, the British arrived in Terengganu and gradually extended their control over Besut. Under colonial rule, significant changes occurred, such as the introduction of rubber and other cash crops, which transformed the agricultural landscape. The British administration also established schools, introduced modern infrastructure, and implemented a legal system that influenced the social fabric of Besut. However, the people of Besut maintained their cultural heritage and customs, blending them with elements of British colonial influence.

During World War II, Besut, like many other parts of Malaya, experienced the brutal Japanese occupation. The Japanese military took control of the region, imposing strict regulations and exploiting local resources. The inhabitants of Besut endured immense hardships during this period, and many were forced into labor or suffered from atrocities committed by the occupying forces.

Following Malaysia's independence in 1957, Besut, along with Terengganu, became an integral part of the newly formed federation. The federal and state governments focused on modernizing the district's infrastructure, healthcare, and education systems. The construction of roads, bridges, and public facilities brought about significant improvements, fostering socio-economic growth and connecting Besut to the rest of the country.