Malacca (Malay: Melaka) is the capital of the state of Malacca, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. Visiting Malacca is a unique experience with a rich historical and cultural background from previous Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. The city centre was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2008, along with Georgetown, Penang.
Before the arrival of the first Sultan, Malacca was a simple fishing village inhabited by local Malays. Malacca was founded by Parameswara, also called Iskandar Shah or Sri Majara, the last Raja of Singapura (now known as Singapore) following a Majapahit attack in 1377. Parameswara found his way to Malacca in 1400 where he found a port, accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca Strait. There are some interesting legends surrounding the foundation and naming of Malacca. According to the 16th century Malay Annals, the city was founded by Parameswara. Some believe it more likely that he was a Hindu prince and political fugitive from nearby Java. The legend goes that Parameswara was out on a hunt in the region and had stopped to refresh himself near what is now the Malacca River. Standing near a melaka (Indian gooseberry) tree he was surprised to witness one of his hunting dogs so startled by a mouse deer that it fell into the river. Parameswara took this as a propitious sign of the weak overcoming the powerful and decided to build the capital of his new kingdom where he stood, naming it for the tree under which he had been resting. Another account says Malacca is derived from the Arabic word Malakat, meaning market. Malacca had a navigable harbor sheltered by nearby Sumatra across the narrow straits. The location was supplied with an ample quantity of fresh water, enjoyed a prime location relative to the shifting monsoon winds, and had a central location in regional trade patterns, all of which soon made it a prosperous trading town. Its fortunes increased with its official adoption of Islam in the 14th century. The Sultans of Malacca were soon attracting Arab traders from far afield. However, Malacca continued to trade with merchants of all races and religions.