To the occasional visitor, Indonesia can appear to be a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma – to rehash that famous line from Winston Churchill…
A nation of 242m people, who are predominantly Muslim, spread out over a huge area and with numerous cultural “sub-groups” such as the Balinese, which are the largest Hindu population outside of India, or the swashbuckling Bugis seafarers of South Sulawesi who have left their mark all over Southeast Asia.
Lombok adds it’s own ingredients to the Indonesian enigma as it comes in two distinct flavors…
The western side of the island, which has a strong Balinese influence from when it was a colony of the Karangasem kingdom in the 17th & 18th centuries.
While the eastern side is very much conservative Islam and generally speaking the further east you travel, the more conservative it becomes.
The original inhabitants of Lombok are the Bodhas, who have dwindled in size & now make up only a small percentage of the population and are concentrated in remote southeast of the island.
The Sasaks, a hill tribe thought to have originated in northwest India or Burma is the largest grouping and make up about 70% of the overall population.
Sasaks traditionally followed animist beliefs before their conversion to Islam around the 17th century and their culture remains strong on the island, although it has divided into two branches – the Wektu Lima and the Wektu Telu.
The Wektu Lima take an orthodox approach to Islam, but the Wekyu Telu mix in traditional practices & beliefs called Adat with their version of Islam and follow three cardinal rules – obey God, community leaders and parents.
Their Adat practices revolve around what the Wektu Lima see as the three essential stages of life – birth, life & death and their ceremonies celebrate various aspects of this.
Troupe of Sasak Traditional Dancers
Lombok is much poorer than Bali and, once you get away from Mataram & Senggigi, has significantly less infrastructure. A very immediate indicator of this disparity are the Cidomo horse drawn carts that are the main form of transport in Lombok – compared to the ubiquitous small motorbike in Bali.
Jokingly referred to as the “Lombok Ferrari”, the Cidomo appears to be a very environmentally friendly vehicle plus a great way to provide cheap public transport and a source of employment for their owners. However they do not seem to have any brakes and are reliant on the skill of the driver when descending the many hills in Lombok…
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