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The Dutch who settled in Medan hundreds of years ago christened it “Paris von Soematra” – the Paris of Sumatra, because of the classical feel the city once carried and for its resemblance to the French capital. The etymology of the name “Medan” is disputed, but one account from a Portuguese trader claims it came from the Saudi city Medina, one of the holiest cities of Islam. There is no dominant ethnic group – with Chinese, Javanese, Batak, Mandailing and a host of other groups, living side by side. The history and culture of the place clearly combine to lend it the air of a melting pot in every way. From the cuisine and architecture to the humour and fashion, fusion and multiculturalism characterises every aspect of society. Medan may not be a traditional hotspot of tourism, but it is a fascinating place to visit, with surprises at every turn.

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