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Situated some 45 Kilometers east of Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan Province, Martapura is a sparkling little city literally filled with diamonds and all the precious rocks delved from inside Borneo’s earth. Administratively, Martapura is the capital of the Banjar Regency. The city is well-known as the center of the diamond industry as well as the main diamond cutting and polishing venue in Kalimantan, in addition to being producers of top quality jewelry.
The city has played an important role in history since it was the last seat of the Banjar Sultanate during the reign of Sultan Adam from 1825-1857. The name “Martapura” itself is said to have been given by the 4th Sultan of Banjar, Sultan Mustain Billah in 1630.
For those who fancy jewelry and accessories such as necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches, and various others made from pure diamond, gold, zircon, silver, various other gemstones, and even plastic or glass imitation, then Martapura is the place to be. The quality of Martapura’s jewelry is globally recognized as one of the best in the world. These sparkling treasures of Martapura are best found at the city’s iconic landmark in the diamond and jewelry market of Cahaya Bumi Selamat.
This market could well be one of the most unique diamond markets the world, since instead of featuring exquisite and elegant stores, Cahaya Bumi Selamat Diamond and Jewels Market is merely a conglomeration of simple stores and a few hawkers. It is even not uncommon to sometimes see millions of rupiahs worth of transaction conducted between two men passing in the street, instead of in an established store. The choice of uncut gems, silver and gold jewelry and threading beads-both strung and unstrung- are excellent here.
Aside from being the showcase of Borneo’s most sparkling rocks, Martapura is also where diamonds and other gemstones are mined and processed. While the nearby diamond fields of Cempaka in Banjarbaru may have prided itself with the 166.75 Carat “Trisakti” diamond in 1965, the Pengaron diamond fields in Martapura startled the world in January 2008 with the discovery of a 200 carat diamond aptly named “Putri Malu” or the shy Princess.
At the heart of Martapura, one can find a lot of diamond polishing houses which use both traditional and modern techniques. The most notable of these is the Kayu Tangi Diamond Polishing Center just behind the Cahaya Bumi Selamat Diamond Market. Here diamonds are brought to be polished and processed into various shapes and sizes using traditional techniques.
The other face of Martapura is its highly religious ambience that radiates throughout the city and has given the city a similar name to that of Aceh: “the veranda of Mecca”. Therefore it is not uncommon to see Arabic characters alongside regular Latin lettering in road or building signs. Probably the most iconic landmark and symbol of Martapura as an Islamic city is the Al Karomah Grand Mosque (previously Masjid Jami’ Martapura) which is the oldest and largest mosque in Martapura. With touches of European architecture, the mosque features a huge and colorful onion shaped dome that radiates an exquisite ambience.
To get to Martapura one has to fly in through Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan province. There are many domestic airlines flying to Banjarmasin.
Martapura is approximately 45 Km east from Banjarmasin. From here the city can be reached by public transportation or rented car for about an hour’s drive. From the town of Banjarbaru, the trip will take roughly 15 minutes. From Banjarmasin’s Syamsudin Noor Airport, the drive will take approximately 20 minutes.