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Remembering a rich past

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Siti Khairiah Mohamad Yatim and her husband Roslan Haji Talib live in Kota Aur, which locals call Kota Ok. They have opened their homes to visitors, happy to have them experience the Malay village life in a most picturesque setting.

Together with 14 other families, Siti Khairiah has run a homestay programme in her village for five years now. They host guests from all over Malaysia and the world. Villagers are friendly to foreigners and strangers cycling down their village lanes, and join in the laughter when these visitors’ padi-planting sessions turn into mud fights.

Siti Khairiah and her neighbours conduct cooking and handicraft classes, and even stage traditional Malay weddings for their guests. They also take them on excursions to nearby attractions such as the Balai Bisik Fish Market in Kuala Muda.

But they would like for people to remember Kota Aur for much more than its traditions and hospitality. Siti Khairiah hopes more people will come to know that Kota Aur
was once the capital of the ancient Langkasuka civilisation, a Hindu-Buddhist-Malay kingdom which existed from the second to the 15th century.

Villagers have long listened to their elders recounting Kota Aur’s glorious past, aware of the archeological findings on their village grounds. Just down the road from Siti Khairiah’s house are the ruins of three old temples.

“The red stones that were used to build these temples are the same as those used in the Bujang Basin in Kedah. A team of archeologists from Universiti Sains Malaysia took samples from the ruins on our road to examine.

“We hope the site will be excavated and Kota Aur will be recognised as a world heritage site,” says Siti Khairiah.

For now, Siti Khairiah and the other homestay hosts are happy to tell visitors about Kota Aur’s history, continuing the oral history tradition that has ensured its rich past is never forgotten.

Kenny Loh
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