Pekanbaru is the capital of Riau province. Once, the town was a small village called Payung Sekaki located on Siak riverbank. Because the Senapelan tribe established the village, it was better known as 'Senapelan'. Today, Pekanbaru is a booming oil town with an international airport, which can accommodate foreign tourist entering Indonesia via Singapore or Malacca. About 160 km upstream on Siak river, Pekanbaru, has a number of buildings in the traditional style of the area, among them Balai sang Merdu, Balai Adat and Taman Budaya Riau or Riau Cultural Park.

Under the reign of the fourth Sultan of Siak, Sultan Abdul Jalil Alamuddin Syah (1766-1780), Senapelan was made the central seat of Siak kingdom. During this period, trade developed prosperously, and the idea emerged to establish a 'pekan', a kind of market of which the activities were performed on certain days of the week. After the death of the Sultan, his son, Sultan Muhammad Ali Abdul Jalil Muazzam Syah, who reigned from 1780 to 1782, further pursued the idea. From 1784, the name Senapelan started to be no longer in use, but the city was referred to as Pekanbaru (new trading place) instead.

After being under the reign of Siak Sultanate, Pekanbaru became a Dutch colony, followed then by the Japanese occupation. Today, many monuments still remember these eras and the struggle for independence. In 1959, Pekanbaru was established as the capital of Riau Province, which formerly was Tanjung Pinang.

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