Sarawak is the largest of the 13 states that make up Malaysia. Covering an area of about 124,000 sq km, it stretches some 700 km along the northwestern coast of Borneo (the third largest island in the world) and is flanked by Kalimantan (Indonesia) in the south, and Sabah and Brunei in the north.
Separated from Peninsula Malaysia by the South China Sea, it has a warm and equable climate, with an average annual temperature of 25.6 deg C. The rainy season or landas is between November and February. The average annual rainfall is between 330 cm and 460 cm.
Sarawak's history is colourful, filled with adventure, piracy, head-hunting and romance. When English adventurer James Brooke arrived in 1839, Sarawak was rebelling under the rule of the Brunei sultanate. As a reward for the role he played in quelling the rebellion, the Pengiran Mahkota of Brunei made Brooke the Rajah of Sarawak in 1841. James was succeeded by his nephew Charles Brooke in 1868, who, in turn was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles Vyner, in 1917.
During the second World War, Sarawak was occupied by the Japanese forces, but it was subsequently ceded to Britain after the war and became a British Crown Colony. On 16th September 1963, Sarawak joined the Federation of Malaysia, and today she observes a democratic system of government.
Kuching (pop. 306,000) is the economic and political centre of the state, and was declared a city on 1st August, 1988. Miri, the longest town, lies next to the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei.
It's economy is largely dependent on its rich natural resources, particularly oil, liquefied natural gas. (LNG), timber and the famous Sarawak black and white pepper. Nevertheless, it is also a state developed in agriculture, commerce, and industries. Apart from the petroleum products and timber, other important exports are coconut oil, rubber, palm oil, cocoa beans and urea. Its tourism industry is growing and fulfilling its tremendous potential.
The Iban forms the largest indigenous group, comprising 29.6% of the population, while Chinese comprises 29.1%, Malay - 20.7% Bidayuh (formerly known as Land Dayaks) - 8.4%, Melanau - 5.8%. Other indigenous peoples of Sarawak fall under the orang ulu ethnic category and make up a further 5.4% of the population.
Although Islam is the official religion of the state, the people of Sarawak enjoy religious freedom. Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are widely practised , while some forms of paganism still exists in the rural interior.
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