Sumatra (Indonesian: Sumatera), is an island in western Indonesia, to the west of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island that is entirely in Indonesia (two larger islands, Borneo and New Guinea, are shared between Indonesia and other countries) and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538. Its biggest city is Medan with a population of 2,109,330.
Sumatra is an elongated landmass spanning a diagonal northwest-southeast axis. The Indian Ocean borders the west, northwest, and southwest sides of Sumatra with the island chain of Simeulue, Nias and Mentawai bordering the southwestern coast. On the northeast side the narrow Strait of Malacca separates the island from the Malay Peninsula, an extension of Eurasian continent. On the southeast the narrow Sunda Strait separates Sumatra from Java. The northern tip of Sumatra borders the Andaman islands, while on the lower eastern side are the islands of Bangka and Belitung, Karimata Strait and the Java Sea. The Bukit Barisan mountains, which contain several active volcanoes, form the backbone of the island, while the northeast sides are outlying lowlands with swamps, mangrove and complex river systems. The equator crosses the island at its center on West Sumatra and Riau provinces. The climate of the island is tropical, hot and humid with lush tropical rain forest originally dominating the landscape.
Banda Aceh is the provincial capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, Indonesia, located on the island of Sumatra, with an elevation of 35 meters. The city regency covers an area of 64 square kilometres and according to the 2000 census had a population of 219,070 people. Banda Aceh is located at the northwestern tip of Indonesia at the mouth of the River Krueng Aceh.
The city was originally named Kutaraja, and determined as the provincial capital in 1956. Kuta Raja means "City of the King", in reference to the founding of the Aceh Sultanate from Champa origins. Later its name was changed to Bandar Aceh Darussalam or popularly known as Bandar Aceh, with the first part of the name coming from the Persian bandar (بندر) meaning "port" or "haven". Today the city is spelled Banda Aceh with the lost of "r" in "Bandar". The city is also dubbed to as the "port to Mecca", and Aceh is also referred to as the "porch of Mecca" (Indonesian: Serambi Mekkah), since in the past during the days when the hajj pilgrims travelled by sea, the hajj pilgrim from all over Indonesian archipelago traditionally always make a stop over in the city before continuing their journey to Mecca. It is also known that earliest Southeast Asian Islamic sultanates — such as Samudra Pasai — were first established in Aceh, which means Islam first arrived in Aceh before spreading throughout Southeast Asia.
Banda Aceh was not frequently the subject of international discussion until 26 December 2004, the day the Indian Ocean earthquake struck off the western coast of Sumatra. Banda Aceh was the closest major city to the earthquake's epicenter, and suffered further damage when a tsunami struck shortly afterward. It was the worst hit area out of all the locations hit. 167,000 people died and many more were injured. The tsunami resulted from an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 and struck at about 6:58am. The epicenter was about 155 miles off the coast of Banda Aceh.