Pariaman is a coastal city that has meaning as ‘A Safe Area’, 56 Km north of Padang, West Sumatera. The city is administratively divided into four districts, which is Pariaman Selatan, Pariaman Tengah, Pariaman Timur and Pariaman Utara. The four districts are of similar area; about one-half of the city's population lives in Pariaman Tengah. However, the city is surrounded by the rural regency(kabupaten) of Padang Pariaman.
Although the population of Pariaman is predominantly Sunni, a famous and popular festival of Shia origin named Tabuik is held annually in the city every 10 Muharram, the Day of Ashura. This practice was brought to the city in 1818, when ex-British soldiers from India settled in Pariaman. They had been disbanded when the British handed the area back to the Netherlands as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814.
A Tabuik celebration is the reenactment of the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of the grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad, Hasan and Husyein along with their family members, which day is better known as the day of Ashura. Therefore, a visit to Pariaman would be best during the first ten days of the month of Muharam, or the first month in the Moslem lunar calendar, when the Tabuik tower is ritually prepared, watched over, and the day massively celebrated.
Pariaman’s history, in fact, started much earlier. Since long time, traders from China, India and other parts of the Indonesian islands called on this port. The oldest record was written by a Portuguese official in Asia, called Tome Pires (1446 – 1524) who mentioned that people from India came to develop successful commerce here, especially with the people of Tiku and Barus (now in the province of North Sumatra), who traded in the camphor tree crystal compounds, locally known as Kamper or Kapur Barus. Camphor was popular in China to make wooden chests to keep textiles from being damaged by weather and insects. Pires also noted that there was horse trading between the Batak from North Sumatra and merchants from Tanah Sunda on Java.