October, 26, 2010 - 06:29AM

A new history to Lombok.

Many of the visitors to Lombok and much of the islands goods come across the Lombok Strait by sea or air links. Only 25 miles separate the two islands accross the Lombok straights. Lombok is often marketed as “an unspoiled Bali,” or “Bali’s sister island.” Currently with support of the central government, Lombok and Sumbawa are being developed as Indonesia 2nd destination for international and domestic tourism. Lombok has retained a more natural, uncrowded and undeveloped environment, which attract travelers who come to enjoy its relaxed pace and the opportunity to explore the island’s unspoiled, spectacular natural beauty. The more contemporary marketing campaigns for Lombok and the 13 Gilis seek to differentiate from Bali and promote the island of Lombok as a stand alone destination. The imminent opening (2011) of the new Lombok International Airport will assist in this endeavour.

Nusa Tenggara Barat and Lombok may be considered economically depressed by First World standards and a large majority of the population live in poverty. Still, the island is fertile, has sufficient rainfall in most areas for agriculture, and possesses a variety of climate zones. Consequently, food is in abundant quantity and variety and is available inexpensively at local farmer’s markets, though locals still suffer from famine due to drought and subsistence farming practices. A family of 4 can eat rice, vegetables, and fruit for as little as US$0.50 a day. Even though a family’s income may be as small as US$1.00 per day from fishing or farming, many families are able to live a contented and productive life on such astonishingly small incomes. The people of Lombok however are coming under increasing pressure from rising fuel and food prices and access to more modern housing, education and health services still remains difficult for many of the islands indigenous population.

Lombok’s indigenous Sasak people are predominantly Muslim however before the arrival of Islam, Lombok experienced a long period of Hindu and Buddhist influences that reached the island through Java, although minority Balinese Hindu culture remains in Lombok. Islam may have first been brought to Lombok by traders arriving from Sumbawa in the 17th century who then established a following in eastern Lombok. Other accounts describe the first influences arriving in the first half of the sixteenth century. According to the palm leaf manuscript Babad Lombok which contains the history of Lombok describes how Sunan Prapen was sent by his father The Susuhunan Ratu of Giri on a military expedition to Lombok and Sumbawa in order to convert the population and propagate the new religion. However the new religion took on a highly syncretistic character, frequently mixing animist and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs and practices with Islam.

A more orthodox version of Islam increased in popularity in the early twentieth century. The Indonesian government agamaisation programs (acquiring of a religion) in Lombok during 1967 and 1968 led to a period of some considerable confusion in religious allegiances and practices. These agamaisation programs later led to the emergence of more conformity in religious practices in Lombok. The Hindu minority religion is still practised in Lombok alongside the majority Muslim religion and can be seen in the tourist area of Senggigi.