History in Johor Bahru

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The name Johor Bahru is a combination of two words, “Johor – Jewel” and “Baru, or Bahru – New”. The name is derived from Arabic “Jauhar – Precious Stone” and illustrates the strong influence Arab traders had in this place. Johor Bahru is also known by the abbreviation JB, is the capital city of Johor and is the southernmost part of the mainland.

Early Years

Founded in 1855 during the rule of Temenggong Daing Ibrahim, Johor Bahru became the established administrative headquarters. During this time it was a small fishing village and was named as "Tanjung Puteri" by Temenggong Daing Ibrahim in 1858. In 1866, his son and successor, Temenggong Abu Bakar renamed the village as "Johor Bahru."

Leadership of Abu Bakar

Johor Bahru rapidly grew into a thriving town under the leadership of Abu Bakar. Several of the buildings in the town, built during his reign, include the Istana Besar, the residence of the Menteri Besar and the State Mosque. Most of these buildings were built by a Toisanese Chinese contractor named Wong Ah Fook, who soon became a close supporter of Sultan Abu Bakar.

Early Twentieth Century

During the reign of Sultan Ibrahim, Johor Bahru witnessed modest development. In 1909 the extension project of the Malay Peninsula Railway was completed and in 1923 the linking of the roadway and the railway between the Malay Peninsula and Singapore was completed with the construction of the Causeway.

Mid-twentieth Century

In 1940 the State Secretariat Building was completed and the British Colonial Government tried to reorganize the state’s administration.

During the Second World War, when Johor Bahru was invaded by the Japanese army in January 1942, the residence of the Sultan at Istana Bukit Serene was converted into a preparatory base for the Japanese military for their conquest of Singapore. When the war ended, a great transformation of Johor Bahru took place and it became a ‘hotspot’ for Malay nationalism.   In May 1946, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) was formed by Onn Jaafar. The organization was formed after the Malayan population showed widespread dissatisfaction with the British government for granting lenient citizenship laws to non-Malays.

Late Twentieth Century

Johor Bahru continued to grow in size and new industrial estates and townships were constructed where villages such as Tebrau and Plentong had stood.   In January 1994, Johor Bahru was granted “City” status because by the early 1990s it had developed rapidly in size and economical status. Today, Johor Bahru is one of the most visited cities in Malaysia.

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