Kuala Lumpur is the cultural, financial and economic centre of Malaysia and home to the Parliament of Malaysia, and the official residence of the Malaysian King, the Istana Negara. The city once held the headquarters of the executive and judicial branches of the federal government as well, but they were moved to Putrajaya in early 1999. Some sections of the judiciary still remain in Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur is one of three Federal Territories of Malaysia, enclaved within the state of Selangor, on the central west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Kuala Lumpur has undergone rapid development in recent decades. It is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia's futuristic development.
Kuala Lumpur has a comprehensive road system that is supported by extensive public transport networks such as the Mass Rapid Transit, Light Metro, monorail, elevated Bus Rapid Transit, commuter rail and airport rail link. Kuala Lumpur is one of the leading cities in the world for tourism and shopping. It is the seventh most visited city in the world. The city is also home to three of the world's 10 largest malls.
Kuala Lumpur has been ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit at No. 70 out of 140 cities in a global ranking of liveable cities, and second in Southeast Asia after Singapore at No. 35. Forbes has also named KL at No. 6 in its list of 10 best cities to retire abroad, and the best in Asia, with factors include world class healthcare, affordable cost of living and widely spoken English. Kuala Lumpur was named as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, Durban, Havana, Beirut, and La Paz. Safe Cities Index 2017 has put KL 31st on its world safest cities list, the highest ranked city for a developing country.
Kuala Lumpur means "muddy confluence"; kuala is the point where two rivers join together or an estuary, and lumpur means "mud". One suggestion is that it was named after Sungai Lumpur ("muddy river"); it was recorded in 1824 that Sungei Lumpoor was the most important tin-producing settlement up the Klang River. Doubts however have been raised on such a derivation as Kuala Lumpur lies at the confluence of Gombak River and Klang River, therefore should rightly be named Kuala Gombak as the point where one river joins another or the sea is its kuala. It has been argued by some that Sungai Lumpur is in fact Gombak River (therefore the point where it joined the Klang River would be Kuala Lumpur), although Sungai Lumpur is said to be another river joining the Klang River a mile upstream from the Gombak confluence, or perhaps located to the north of the Batu Caves area.
It has also been proposed that Kuala Lumpur was originally named Pengkalan Lumpur ("muddy landing place") in the same way that Klang was once called Pengkalan Batu ("stone landing place"), but became corrupted into Kuala Lumpur. Another suggestion is that it was initially a Cantonese word lam-pa meaning 'flooded jungle' or 'decayed jungle'. There is however no firm contemporary evidence for these suggestions other than anecdotes. It is also possible that the name is a corrupted form of an earlier but now unidentifiable forgotten name.
It is unknown who founded or named the settlement called Kuala Lumpur. Chinese miners were involved in tin mining up the Selangor River in the 1840s about ten miles north of present-day Kuala Lumpur, and Mandailing Sumatrans led by Raja Asal and Sutan Puasa were also involved in tin mining and trade in the Ulu Klang region before 1860, and Sumatrans may have settled in the upper reaches of Klang River in the first quarter of the 19th century, possibly earlier. Kuala Lumpur was originally a small hamlet of just a few houses and shops at the confluence of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang (Klang River) before it grew into a town. It is generally accepted that Kuala Lumpur become established as a town circa 1857, when the Malay Chief of Klang, Raja Abdullah bin Raja Jaafar, aided by his brother Raja Juma'at of Lukut, raised funds to hire some Chinese miners from Lukut to open new tin mines here. The miners landed at Kuala Lumpur and continued their journey on foot to Ampang where the first mine was opened. Kuala Lumpur was the furthest point up the Klang River to which supplies could conveniently be brought by boat; it therefore became a collection and dispersal point serving the tin mines.
Although the early miners suffered a high death toll due to the malarial conditions of the jungle, the Ampang mines were successful, and the first tin from these mines was exported in 1859. The tin-mining spurred the growth of the town, and miners later also settled in Pudu and Batu. The miners formed gangs among themselves; and fights between different gangs were frequent in this period, mainly to gain control of the best tin mines. Leaders of the Chinese community were conferred the title of Kapitan Cina (Chinese headman) by the Malay chief, and Hiu Siew, the owner of a mine in Lukut, was chosen as the first Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur. As one of the first traders to arrive in Ampang (along with Yap Ah Sze), he sold provisions to the miners in exchange for tin. The third Chinese Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Ah Loy, was appointed in 1868.
Important Malay figures of early Kuala lumpur also include the Dato' Dagang ("chief of traders") and Haji Tahir. The Minangkabaus later became another important group of people; Minangkabau traders from Sumatra include Utsman Abdullah, and Haji Mohamed Taib who was involved in the early development of Kampung Baru. The Minangkabaus are also important socio-religious figures, for example Utsman bin Abdullah was the first kadi of Kuala Lumpur as well as Muhammad Nur bin Ismail.
Early Kuala Lumpur was a small town that suffered from many social and political problems – the buildings were made of wood and atap (palm frond thatching) that were prone to fire, lack of proper sanitation plagued the town with diseases, and it suffered from a constant threat of flooding. The town became embroiled in the Selangor Civil War due in part to the fight for control of revenues from the tin mines. The Chinese Kapitan Yap Ah Loy aligned himself with Tengku Kudin, and the rival Chinese gang allied themselves with Raja Mahdi. Raja Asal and Sutan Puasa also switched side to Raja Mahdi, and Kuala Lumpur was captured in 1872 and burnt to the ground. Yap escaped to Klang where he reassembled a fighting force. Kuala Lumpur was recaptured by Yap in March 1873 when Raja Mahdi forces were defeated with the help of fighters from Pahang. The war and other setbacks, such as a drop in tin prices, led to a slump, furthermore a major outbreak of cholera in late 1870s caused many to flee the town. The slump lasted until late 1879, when a rise in the price of tin allowed the town to recover. In late 1881, the town was severely flooded, following a fire that had destroyed the entire town in January that year. That the town was rebuilt a few times and thrived was due in large part to the tenacity and persistence of Yap Ah Loy. Yap, together with Frank Swettenham who was appointed the Resident in 1882, were the two most important figures of early Kuala Lumpur with Swettenham credited with its rapid growth and development and its transformation into a major urban center.
The early Chinese and Malay settlements were along the east bank of the Klang River – the Chinese mainly settled around the commercial centre of Market Square; the Malays, later Indian Chettiars and Indian Muslims resided in the Java Street (now Jalan Tun Perak) area. In 1880, the state capital of Selangor was moved from Klang to the more strategically advantageous Kuala Lumpur by the colonial administration, and the British Resident William Bloomfield Douglas then decided that the government buildings and living quarters should be located to the west of the river. Government offices and a new police headquarters was built on Bukit Aman, and the Padang was created initially for police training. The Padang, now known as Merdeka Square, would later become the centre of the British administrative offices when the colonial government offices were moved to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in 1897.
Frank Swettenham, on becoming the British Resident, began improving the town by cleaning up the streets. He also stipulated in 1884 that buildings should be constructed of brick and tile so that they would be less flammable, and that the town be rebuilt with wider streets to reduce fire risk. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy bought a sprawling piece of real estate to set up a brick industry for the rebuilding of Kuala Lumpur; this place is the eponymous Brickfields. Destroyed atap buildings were replaced with brick and tiled ones, and many of the new brick buildings are characterised by the "five foot ways" as well as Chinese carpentry work. This resulted in a distinct eclectic shop house architecture typical to this region. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy expanded road access in the city significantly, linking up tin mines with the city; these roads include the main arterial routes of the present Ampang Road, Pudu Road and Petaling Street. As Chinese Kapitan, he was vested with wide powers on a par with Malay community leaders. Law reforms were implemented and new legal measures introduced to the assembly. Yap also presided over a small claims court. With a police force of six, he was able to uphold the rule of law, constructing a prison that could accommodate 60 prisoners at any time. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy also built Kuala Lumpur's first school and a major tapioca mill in Petaling Street of which the Selangor's Sultan Abdul Samad held an interest.
A railway line between Kuala Lumpur and Klang, initiated by Swettenham and completed in 1886, increased accessibility which resulted in the rapid growth of the town. The population grew from 4,500 in 1884 to 20,000 in 1890. As development intensified in the 1880s, it also put pressure on sanitation, waste disposal and other health issues. A Sanitary Board was created on 14 May 1890 which was responsible for sanitation, upkeep of roads, lighting of street and other functions. This would eventually become the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council. In 1896, Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States.
The area that is defined as Kuala Lumpur expanded considerably in the 20th century. It was only 0.65 km2 in 1895, but was extended to encompass 20 km2 in 1903. By the time it became a municipality in 1948 it had expanded to 93 km2, and then to 243 km2 in 1974 as a Federal Territory.
The development of rubber industry in Selangor fueled by the demand for car tyre in the early 20th century led to a boom of the town, with the population of Kuala Lumpur increasing from 30,000 in 1900 to 80,000 in 1920. Previously the commercial activities of Kuala Lumpur were run to a large extent by Chinese businessmen such as Loke Yew who was then the richest and most influential Chinese of Kuala Lumpur. The growth of the rubber industry led to an influx of foreign capital and planters, with new companies and industries becoming established in Kuala Lumpur, and other companies previously based elsewhere also found a presence here.
During World War II, Kuala Lumpur was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army on 11 January 1942. Despite suffering little damage during the course of the battle, the wartime occupation of the city resulted in significant loss of lives; at least 5,000 Chinese were killed in Kuala Lumpur in just a few weeks of the occupation by Japanese forces, and thousands of Indians were sent as forced labour to work on the Burma Railway where a large number died. They occupied the city until 15 August 1945, when the commander in chief of the Japanese Seventh Area Army in Singapore and Malaysia, Seishirō Itagaki, surrendered to the British administration following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kuala Lumpur grew through the war, and continued after the war during the Malayan Emergency, during which Malaya was preoccupied with the communist insurgency and New Villages were established on the outskirts of the city in an attempt to control community contacts with the insurgents.
The first municipal election in Kuala Lumpur was held on 16 February 1952. An ad hoc alliance between the Malay UMNO and Chinese MCA party candidates won a majority of the seats contested, and their success led to the formation of the Alliance Party (later the Barisan Nasional). On 31 August 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British rule. The British flag was lowered and the Malayan flag was raised for the first time at the Padang on the midnight of 30 August 1957, and in the morning of 31 August, the ceremony for the Declaration of Independence was held at the Merdeka Stadium by the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Kuala Lumpur remained the capital after the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. The Malaysian Houses of Parliament was completed at the edge of the Lake Gardens in 1963.
Kuala Lumpur had seen a number of civil disturbances over the years. A riot in 1897 was a relatively minor affair that began with the confiscation of faulty dacing (a scale used by traders), and in 1912, a more serious disturbance called the tauchang riot began during the Chinese New Year with the cutting of pigtails and ended with rioting and factional fighting lasting a number of days. The worst rioting on record in Malaysia however occurred on 13 May 1969, when race riots broke out in Kuala Lumpur. The so-called 13 May Incident refers to the violent conflicts that took place between members of the Malay and the Chinese communities. The violence was the result of Malaysian Malays being dissatisfied with their socio-political status. The riots caused the deaths of 196 people according to official figures, and led to major changes in the country's economic policy to promote and prioritise Malay economic development over that of the other ethnicities.
Kuala Lumpur achieved city status in 1972, becoming the first settlement in Malaysia to be granted the status after independence. Later, on 1 February 1974, Kuala Lumpur became a Federal Territory. Kuala Lumpur ceased to be the capital of Selangor in 1978 after the city of Shah Alam was declared the new state capital. On 14 May 1990, Kuala Lumpur celebrated 100 years of local council. The new federal territory Kuala Lumpur flag and anthem were introduced. On 1 February 2001, Putrajaya was declared a Federal Territory, as well as the seat of the federal government. The administrative and judicial functions of the government were shifted from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. Kuala Lumpur however still retained its legislative function, and remained the home of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Constitutional King).
The geography of Kuala Lumpur is characterised by the huge Klang Valley. The valley is bordered by the Titiwangsa Mountains in the east, several minor ranges in the north and the south and the Strait of Malacca in the west. Kuala Lumpur is a Malay term that translates to "muddy confluence" as it is located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers.
Located in the centre of Selangor state, Kuala Lumpur was previously under the rule of Selangor State Government. In 1974, Kuala Lumpur was separated from Selangor to form the first Federal Territory governed directly by the Malaysian Federal Government. Its location on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which has wider flat land than the east coast, has contributed to its faster development relative to other cities in Malaysia. The municipality of the city covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi), with an average elevation of 81.95 m (268.9 ft).
Protected by the Titiwangsa Mountains in the east and Indonesia's Sumatra Island in the west, Kuala Lumpur has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af), which is warm and sunny, along with abundant rainfall, especially during the northeast monsoon season from October to March. Temperatures tend to remain constant. Maximums hover between 32 and 33 °C (90 and 91 °F) and have never exceeded 38.5 °C (101.3 °F), while minimums hover between 23.4 and 24.6 °C (74.1 and 76.3 °F) and have never fallen below 14.4 °C (57.9 °F). Kuala Lumpur typically receives minimum 2,600 mm (100 in) of rain annually; June and July are relatively dry, but even then rainfall typically exceeds 131 millimetres (5.2 in) per month.
Flooding is a frequent occurrence in Kuala Lumpur whenever there is a heavy downpour, especially in the city centre and downstream areas. Smoke from forest fires of nearby Sumatra sometimes casts a haze over the region. It is a major source of pollution in the city together with open burning, emission from motor vehicles and construction work.
Kuala Lumpur was administered by a corporation sole called the Federal Capital Commissioner from 1 April 1961, until it was awarded city status in 1972, after which executive power transferred to the Lord Mayor (Datuk Bandar). Nine mayors have been appointed since then. The current mayor is Mhd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz, who has been in office since 18 July 2015.
The local administration is carried out by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, an agency under the Federal Territories Ministry of Malaysia. It is responsible for public health and sanitation, waste removal and management, town planning, environmental protection and building control, social and economic development, and general maintenance functions of urban infrastructure. Executive power lies with the mayor in the city hall, who is appointed for three years by the Federal Territories Minister. This system of appointing the mayor has been in place ever since the local government elections were suspended in 1970.
Kuala Lumpur's eleven districts serve as administrative subdivisions under the Kuala Lumpur City Hall authority.
Kuala Lumpur is home to the Parliament of Malaysia. The hierarchy of authority in Malaysia, in accordance with the Federal Constitution, has stipulated the three branches, of the Malaysian government as consisting of the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative branches. The Parliament consists of the Dewan Negara (Upper House / House of Senate) and Dewan Rakyat (Lower House / House of Representatives).
Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding urban areas form the most industrialised and economically, the fastest growing region in Malaysia. Despite the relocation of federal government administration to Putrajaya, certain government institutions such as Bank Negara Malaysia (National Bank of Malaysia), Companies Commission of Malaysia and Securities Commission as well as most embassies and diplomatic missions have remained in the city.
The city remains as the economic and business centre of the country. Kuala Lumpur is a centre for finance, insurance, real estate, media and the arts of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is rated as an alpha world city, and is the only global city in Malaysia, according to the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC). The infrastructure development in the surrounding areas such as the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang, the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor and the expansion of Port Klang further reinforce the economic significance of the city.
Bursa Malaysia or the Malaysia Exchange is based in the city and forms one of its core economic activities. As of 5 July 2013, the market capitalisation stood at US$505.67 billion.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Kuala Lumpur is estimated at RM73,536 million in 2008 with an average annual growth rate of 5.9 percent. By 2015, the GDP has reached RM160,388 million, representing 15.1% of the total GDP of Malaysia. The per capita GDP for Kuala Lumpur in 2013 was RM79,752 with an average annual growth rate of 5.6 percent, and RM94,722 in 2015. The total employment in Kuala Lumpur is estimated to be around 838,400 in 2000. The service sector comprising finance, insurance, real estate, business services, wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, transport, storage and communication, utilities, personal services and government services form the largest component of employment representing about 83.0 percent of the total. The remaining 17 percent comes from manufacturing and construction.
The average monthly household income for Kuala Lumpur was RM4,105 (USD 1,324) in 1999, up from RM3,371 (USD 1,087) four years prior, making it 66% higher than the national average. In terms of household income distribution, 23.5% of households in the city earned more than RM5,000 (USD 1,613) per month compared to 9.8% for the entire country, while 8.1% earned less than RM1,000 (USD 323) a month.
The large service sector is evident in the number of local and foreign banks and insurance companies operating in the city. Kuala Lumpur is poised to become the global Islamic Financing hub with an increasing number of financial institutions providing Islamic Financing and the strong presence of Gulf's financial institutions such as the world's largest Islamic bank, Al-Rajhi Bank and Kuwait Finance House. Apart from that, the Dow Jones & Company is keen to work with Bursa Malaysia to set up Islamic Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs), which would help raise Malaysia's profile in the Gulf. The city has a large number of foreign corporations and is also host to many multi national companies' regional offices or support centres, particularly for finance and accounting, and information technology functions. Most of the country's largest companies have their headquarters here, and as of December 2007 and excluding Petronas, there are 14 companies that are listed in Forbes 2000 based in Kuala Lumpur.
Other important economic activities in the city are education and health services. Kuala Lumpur also has advantages stemming from the high concentration of educational institutions that provide a wide-ranging of courses. Numerous public and private medical specialist centres and hospitals in the city offer general health services, and a wide range of specialist surgery and treatment that caters to locals and tourists.
There has been growing emphasis to expand the economic scope of the city into other service activities, such as research and development, which supports the rest of the economy of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur has been home for years to important research centres such as the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, the Forest Research Institute Malaysia and the Institute of Medical Research and more research centres are expected to be established in the coming years.
Tourism plays an important role in the city's service-driven economy. Many large worldwide hotel chains have a presence in the city. One of the oldest hotels is the Hotel Majestic. Kuala Lumpur is the sixth most visited city in the world, with 8.9 million tourists per year. Tourism here is driven by the city's cultural diversity, relatively low costs, and wide gastronomic and shopping variety. MICE tourism, which mainly encompasses conventions— has expanded in recent years to become a vital component of the industry, and is expected to grow further once the Malaysian government's Economic Transformation Programme kicks in, and with the completion of a new 93,000m2-size MATRADE Centre in 2014. Another notable trend is the increased presence of budget hotels in the city.
The major tourist destinations in Kuala Lumpur include the PETRONAS Twin Tower, the Bukit Bintang shopping district, the Kuala Lumpur Tower, Petaling Street (Chinatown), the Merdeka Square, the House of Parliament, the National Palace (Istana Negara), Batu Caves, the National Museum, Islamic Arts Museum, Central Market, KL Bird Park, Aquaria KLCC, the National Monument, and religious sites such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque. Kuala Lumpur plays host to many cultural festivals such as the Thaipusam procession at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Every year during the Thaipusam celebration, a silver chariot carrying the statue of Lord Muruga together with his consort Valli and Teivayanni would be paraded through the city beginning at the temple all the way to Batu Caves in the neighboring Selangor.
The entertainment hub of the city is mainly centred in the Golden Triangle encompassing Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Sultan Ismail and Ampang Road. Trendy nightclubs, bars and lounges, such as Marini's on 57, Skybar at Traders Hotel, the Beach Club, Espanda, the Hakka Republic Wine Bar & Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, the Luna Bar, Nuovo, Rum Jungle, No Black Tie, the Thai Club, Zion club, Zouk, and many others are located here.
Kuala Lumpur alone has 66 shopping malls and is the retail and fashion hub in Malaysia as well as Southeast Asia. Shopping in Malaysia contributed RM7.7 billion (USD 2.26 billion) or 20.8 percent of the RM31.9 billion tourism receipts in 2006.
Suria KLCC is one of Malaysia's premier upscale shopping destination due to its location beneath the Petronas Twin Towers.
Apart from Suria KLCC, Bukit Bintang district has the highest concentration of shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur. It includes: Pavilion, Fahrenheit 88, Plaza Low Yat, Berjaya Times Square, Lot 10, BB Plaza, Sungai Wang Plaza. Quill City Mall, Changkat area of Bukit Bintang hosts various cafes, alfresco dining outlets and illegal activities. Bangsar district also has a few shopping complexes, including Bangsar Village, Bangsar Shopping Centre, and Mid Valley Megamall. The Damansara subdivision north-west of Kuala Lumpur, though not in the city-proper, is the home of the one of the only two IKEA outlets in the country, and a cluster of locally operated malls like The Curve with KidZania, The Curve, Ikano Power Centre and One Utama, whereas Sunway Pyramid and Paradigm Mall can be found in the southern district of Greater Kuala Lumpur, Bandar Sunway. Apart from shopping complexes, Kuala Lumpur has designated numerous zones in the city to market locally manufactured products such as textiles, fabrics and handicrafts. The Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur, commonly known as Petaling Street, is one of them. Chinatown features many pre-independence buildings with Straits Chinese and colonial architectural influences.
In 2000, the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism introduced the mega sale event for shopping in Malaysia. The mega sale event is held three times a year — in March, May and December — during which all shopping malls are encouraged to participate to boost Kuala Lumpur as a leading shopping destination in Asia.
Kuala Lumpur is the most populous city in Malaysia, with a population of 1.76 million in the city proper as of 2016. It has a population density of 6,696 inhabitants per square kilometre (17,340/sq mi), and is the most densely populated administrative district in Malaysia. Residents of the city are colloquially known as KLites. Kuala Lumpur is also the centre of the wider Klang Valley metropolitan (covering Petaling Jaya, Klang, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Gombak and others) which has an estimated metropolitan population of 7.25 million as of 2017.
Kuala Lumpur's heterogeneous populace includes the country's three major ethnic groups: the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians, although the city also has a mix of different cultures including Eurasians, as well as Kadazans, Ibans and other indigenous races from East Malaysia and Peninsula Malaysia.
Historically Kuala Lumpur was a predominantly Chinese city, with the Kuala Lumpur of 1872 beside the Klang River described by Frank Swettenham as a "purely Chinese village", although a Malay stockade already existed at Bukit Nanas at that time. By 1875, after the Selangor Civil War had ended, Swettenham noted Malay quarters near the Chinese area in a sketch map he had drawn, and there were said to be 1,000 Chinese and 700 Malays in the town in this period (many of the Malays may have settled in Kuala Lumpur after the war). More recently the Bumiputra component of the city has increased substantially and they are now the dominant group. Large number of Malays were originally from the other islands of Malay Archipelago – Sumatrans such as the Mandailings, the Minangkabaus, Javanese, and Buginese began arriving in Kuala Lumpur in the 19th century, while the Acehnese arrived in the late 20th century. Many Pahang Malays who fought in the Selangor Civil War in 1873 also chose to settle in Selangor after the war. The population of Kuala Lumpur was estimated to be around three thousand in 1880 when it was made the capital of Selangor. In the following decade which saw the rebuilding of the town it showed considerable increase with a large influx of immigrants, due in large part to the construction of a railway line in 1886 connecting Kuala Lumpur and Klang.
A census in 1891 of uncertain accuracy gave a figure of 43,796 inhabitants, 79% of whom were Chinese (71% of the Chinese were Hakka), 14% Malay, and 6% Indian. Another estimate put the population of Kuala Lumpur in 1890 at 20,000. In 1931, 61% of Kuala Lumpur's 111,418 inhabitants were Chinese, and in 1947 63.5%. The Malays however began to settle in the Kuala Lumpur in significant numbers, in part due to government employment, as well as the expansion of the city that absorbed the surrounding rural areas where many Malays lived. Between 1947 and 1957 the population of Malays in Kuala Lumpur doubled, increasing from 12.5 to 15%, while the proportion of Chinese dropped. The process continued after Malayan independence with the growth of a largely Malay civil service, and later the implementation of the New Economic Policy which encouraged Malay participation in urban industries and business. In 1980 the population of Kuala Lumpur had reached over a million, with 52% Chinese, 33% Malay, and 15% Indian. From 1980 to 2000 the number of Bumiputras increased by 77%, but the Chinese still outnumbered the Bumiputras in Kuala Lumpur in the 2000 census at 43% compared to Bumiputras at 38%. By the 2010 census, according to the Department of Statistics and excluding non-citizens, the percentage of the Bumiputera population in Kuala Lumpur has reached around 45.9%, with the Chinese population at 43.2% and Indians 10.3%.
A notable phenomenon in recent times has been the increase of foreign residents in Kuala Lumpur, which rose from 1% of the city's population in 1980 to about 8% in the 2000 census, and 9.4% in the 2010 census. These figures also do not include a significant number of illegal immigrants. Kuala Lumpur's rapid development has triggered a huge influx of low-skilled foreign workers from Indonesia, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Vietnam into Malaysia, many of whom enter the country illegally or without proper permits.
Birth rates in Kuala Lumpur have declined and resulted in the lower proportion of young people – the proportion of those in the below 15 years old category fell from 33% in 1980 to slightly less than 27% in 2000. On the other hand, the working age group of 15–59 increased from 63% in 1980 to 67% in 2000. The elderly age group, 60 years old and above has increased from 4% in 1980 and 1991 to 6% in 2000.
Kuala Lumpur is pluralistic and religiously diverse. The city has many places of worship catering to the multi-religious population. Islam is practised primarily by the Malays and the Indian Muslim communities. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are practised mainly among the Chinese. Indians traditionally adhere to Hinduism. Some Chinese and Indians also subscribe to Christianity.
As of 2010 Census the population of Kuala Lumpur was 46.4% Muslim, 35.7% Buddhist, 8.5% Hindu, 5.8% Christian, 1.4% of unknown affiliations, 1.1% Taoist or Chinese religion adherent, 0.6% follower of other religions, and 0.5% non-religious.
Bahasa Malaysia is the principal language in Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur residents are generally literate in English, with a large proportion adopting it as their first language. It has a strong presence, especially in business and is a compulsory language taught in schools. Cantonese and Mandarin are prominent as they are spoken by the local majority Chinese population. Another major dialect spoken is Hakka. While Tamil is dominant amongst the local Indian population, other Indian languages spoken include Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi and Hindi. Beside the Malay language, there are a variety of languages spoken by people of Indonesian descent, such as Minangkabau and Javanese.
According to government statistics, Kuala Lumpur has a literacy rate of 97.5% in 2000, the highest rate in any state or territory in Malaysia. In Malaysia, Malay is the language of instruction for most subjects while English is a compulsory subject, but as of 2012, English is still the language of instruction for mathematics and the natural sciences for certain schools. Some schools provide Mandarin and Tamil as languages of instruction for certain subjects. Each level of education demands different skills of teaching and learning ability.
Kuala Lumpur contains 13 tertiary education institutions, 79 high schools, 155 elementary schools and 136 kindergartens.
Several institutions in the city are older than 100 years—such as Bukit Bintang Girls' School (1893–2000, relocated to Taman Shamelin Perkasa in Cheras and renamed GIS Garden International school Seri Bintang Utara), the Victoria Institution (1893); Methodist Girls' School (1896); Methodist Boys' School (1897); Convent Bukit Nanas (1899), St. John's Institution (1904), Confucian Private Secondary School(1906), Kuen Cheng High School (1908) and Tsun Jin High School (1913).
Kuala Lumpur is home to the University of Malaya (UM). Established in 1949, it is the oldest university in Malaysia, and one of the oldest in the region. It was ranked the best university in Malaysia, the 32nd best in Asia, and 3rd in Southeast Asia in 2014. In recent years, the number of international students at University of Malaya has risen, as a result of increasing efforts made to attract more international students.
Other universities located in Kuala Lumpur include Taylor's University (TULC) being the top Private University in Malaysia, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), UCSI University (UCSI), International Medical University (IMU), Open University Malaysia (OUM), Kuala Lumpur University (UniKL), Wawasan Open University (WOU), Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARUC) Help University and the branch campus of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and University of Technology Malaysia (UTM). The National Defence University of Malaysia is located at Sungai Besi Army Base, at the southern part of central Kuala Lumpur. It was established to be a major centre for military and defence technology studies. This institution covers studies in the field of army, navy, and air force. Greater Kuala Lumpur covers an even more extensive selection of universities including several international branches such as Monash University in Bandar Sunway, Nottingham University and Xiamen University.
Kuala Lumpur is a hub for cultural activities and events in Malaysia. Among the centres is the National Museum, which is situated along the Mahameru Highway. Its collection comprises artefacts and paintings collected throughout the country. The Islamic Arts Museum, which houses more than seven thousand Islamic artefacts including rare exhibits as well as a library of Islamic art books, is the largest Islamic Arts collection in Southeast Asia. The museum's collection not only concentrate on works from the Middle East, but also includes work from elsewhere in Asia, such as China and Southeast Asia. Kuala Lumpur has a Craft Complex coupled with a museum that displays a variety of textile, ceramic, metal craft and weaved products. All the information of the production process are portrayed in diorama format complete with historical facts, technique and traditionally engineered equipment. Among the processes shown are pottery making, intricate wood carving, silver-smithing, weaving songket cloth, stamping batik patterns on cloth and boat making. Royal Selangor has an ultra modern visitor's centre, which allows tours to be conducted through its pewter museum, gallery and its factory. In its pewtersmithing workshop, "The School of Hard Knocks", participants are taught to create their own pewter dish using traditional tools and methods.
The premier performing arts venue is the Petronas Philharmonic Hall located underneath the Petronas Twin Tower. The resident orchestra is the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), consisting of musicians from all over the world and features regular concerts, chamber concerts and traditional cultural performances. The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) in Sentul West and Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPac) in Damansara Perdana are two of the most established centres for performing arts, notably theatre, plays, music, and film screening in the country. It has housed many local productions and has been a supporter of local and regional independent performance artists. One of the highlights was the KL Sing Song 2006 music fest, which featured Malaysian singer-songwriters of various cultural backgrounds, from both West and East Malaysia, through two days of performances and workshops.
The National Art Gallery of Malaysia is located on Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak on a 5.67-hectare (14.0-acre) site neighbouring the National Theatre (Istana Budaya) and National Library. The architecture of the gallery incorporates elements of traditional Malay architecture, as well as contemporary modern architecture. The National Art Gallery serves as a centre of excellence and trustee of the national art heritage. The Petronas Art Gallery, another centre for fine art, is situated in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). The Ilham Tower Gallery near Ampang Park houses exhibitions of works by local and foreign artists.
Kuala Lumpur holds the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival annually. Another event hosted annually by the city is the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week, which includes international brands as well as local designers.
Kuala Lumpur also is becoming the centre for new media, innovation and creative industry development in the region and hosts the international creative industry event, Kreative.Asia. Kreative.Asia gathers local, regional and international experts in the creative industry who are involved in the creation, development and delivery of interactive content, arts, community and applications. Kuala Lumpur is at the forefront of the convergence of media, art, culture and communications.
Kuala Lumpur has numerous parks, gardens and open spaces for recreational purposes. Total open space for recreational and sport facilities land use in the city has increased significantly by 169.6 percent from 5.86 square kilometres (1,450 acres) in 1984 to 15.8 square kilometres (3,900 acres) in 2000.
Although Kuala Lumpur is touted as one of the host cities for the Formula One World Championship, the open-wheel auto racing A1 Grand Prix and the Motorcycle Grand Prix, races are held at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang in the neighbouring state of Selangor. The Formula One event contributes significantly to tourist arrivals and tourism income to Kuala Lumpur. This was evident during the Asian financial crisis in 1998. Despite cities around Asia suffering declining tourist arrivals, Kuala Lumpur tourist arrivals increased from 6,210,900 in 1997 to 10,221,600 in 2000, or 64.6% increase in tourist arrivals. In 2015, the Kuala Lumpur Street Circuit was constructed to host the Kuala Lumpur City Grand Prix motor racing event.
Football is one of the most popular sports in Kuala Lumpur. The Merdeka Tournament is mainly held at Stadium Merdeka. The city also the home of Kuala Lumpur FA, which plays in the second-tier Malaysia Premier League.
Kuala Lumpur hosted the official Asian Basketball Championship in 1965, 1977 and 1985. The city's basketball supporters cheered Malaysia's national basketball team to a Final Four finish in 1985, the team's best performance to date. Further, the city is home to the Westports Malaysia Dragons, 2016 Champion of the ASEAN Basketball League. The team plays its home games in the MABA Stadium.
KL Grand Prix CSI 5*, a five-star international showjumping equestrian event is held annually in the city. This annual event draws the world's top riders and their prized horses to Malaysia.
Other annual sport events hosted by the city include the KL Tower Run, the KL Tower International BASE Jump Merdeka Circuit and the Kuala Lumpur International Marathon. Kuala Lumpur is also one of the stages of the Tour de Langkawi cycling race.
The annual Malaysia Open Super Series badminton tournament is held in Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur has a considerable array of sports facilities of international class after hosting the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Many of these facilities including the main stadium (with running track and a football field), hockey stadium and swimming pools are located in the National Sports Complex at Bukit Jalil while a velodrome and more swimming pools are located in Bandar Tun Razak, next to the Taman Tasik Permaisuri Lake Gardens. There are also football fields, local sports complexes, swimming pools and tennis courts scattered around the suburbs. Badminton and 'takraw' courts are usually included in community halls. The AFC House—current headquarters of the Asian Football Confederation—is built on a 4-acre (16,000 m2) complex in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Bukit Jalil.
Kuala Lumpur has several golf courses including the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) and the Malaysia Civil Service Golf Club in Kiara and the Berjaya Golf Course at Bukit Jalil. The city also has numerous large private fitness centres run by Celebrity Fitness, Fitness First, True Fitness and major five-star hotels.
Kuala Lumpur is also the birthplace of Hashing, which began in December 1938 when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates, some from the Selangor Club, began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British Paper Chase or "Hare and Hounds".
Kuala Lumpur hosted the 128th IOC Session in 2015 where the IOC elected Beijing as the host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics and Lausanne as the host city of the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics.
Several newspapers, including daily, opposition, business, and digital papers, are based in Kuala Lumpur. Daily newspapers include The Star, New Straits Times, The Sun, Malay Mail, Kosmo!, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian, and Harian Metro. Mandarin and Tamil newspapers are also published daily, for example Guang Ming Daily, Sin Chew Daily, China Press, Nanyang Siang Pau and Tamil Nesan, Malaysia Nanban, and Makkal Osai. Opposition newspapers such as Harakah, Suara Keadilan, Siasah and Wasilah are also based here.
Kuala Lumpur is also the headquarters for Malaysia's state media public government terrestrial television stations: TV1 and TV2, the subsidiaries of RTM, TV Alhijrah, a subsidiary of Alhijrah Media Corporation, and Media Prima Berhad, a media corporation that houses the private commercial terrestrial television stations: TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9. Programmes are broadcast in Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil.
The city is home to the country's main pay television service, Astro, a satellite television service which broadcasts local and international television channels such as CNN International Asia Pacific, BBC World News, STAR World, FOX Movies Premium and HBO Asia. Al-Jazeera, the Doha-based Arab news network, has launched a new English-speaking channel called Al-Jazeera English to boost its international viewership with one of its broadcast centres based in Kuala Lumpur. Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong-based television broadcaster has also announced plans to expand its regional business by partnership with local satellite TV provider Astro.
In March 2008, Time Out, an international listings and events magazine, was launched in Kuala Lumpur, its 24th global city.
Kuala Lumpur has been featured in all aspects of popular culture such as movies, television, music and books. Television series set in Kuala Lumpur include A Tale of 2 Cities (starring Rui En and Joanne Peh). Movies set in Kuala Lumpur include Police Story 3: Super Cop (starring Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh), Entrapment (starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Children of Men (starring Clive Owen), in which the Petronas Twin Towers were depicted in flames for a few seconds.
Kuala Lumpur was referenced in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Bart Gets Famous", in which the Bumblebee Man stated that "a powerful tidal wave in Kuala Lumpur has killed 120 people".
Books set in Kuala Lumpur include KL 24/7 by Ida M Rahim, Shireen Zainudin and Rizal Zainudin, My Life As a Fake by Peter Carey, and Democracy by Joan Didion.
A few notable local films featured Kuala Lumpur as background location, such as Masam-masam Manis (1965), Keluarga Si Comat (1973), Jiwa Remaja (1976), Abang (1981), Matinya Seorang Patriot (1984), Kembara Seniman Jalanan (1986), Orang Kampung Otak Kimia (1988), Hati Bukan Kristal (1990), Mat Som (1990), Mira Edora (1990), Femina (1993), Maria Mariana (1996), Hanya Kawan (1997), KLU (1999), Soal Hati (2000), KL Menjerit (2002), Laila Isabella (2003), Gangster (2005), Gol & Gincu (2005), Remp-it (2006), Cinta (2006), Anak Halal (2007) Evolusi KL Drift (2008), Adnan Sempit (2010), KL Gangster (2011), Kepong Gangster (2012), Lagenda Budak Setan 2: Katerina (2012) and Kolumpo (2013). A few local films featured Kuala Lumpur during the historical era, such as 1975: Hati Malaya (2007), Petaling Streets Warrior (2011) and Tanda Putera (2013).
Kuala Lumpur is mentioned in many songs by local Malaysian artists, such as "Keroncong Kuala Lumpur'" by P. Ramlee, "Kuala Lumpur, Ibu Kota" by Saloma, "Chow Kit Road" by Sudirman Arshad, "Senyumlah Kuala Lumpur" by Alleycats, "Streets of Kuala Lumpur" by Murkyway, "K.L." by Vandal, "Kuala Lumpur" by Poetic Ammo, "Anak Dara" by Azmyl Yunor, "KL"' by Too Phat, "Kotarayaku" by Hujan and Altimet, and "Lagu Untuk Kuala Lumpur" by Tom.
Kuala Lumpur, along with Putrajaya, was featured in the music video for the single "Dancing Out" by South Korean boy band Super Junior.
Kuala Lumpur was one of the destinations in The Amazing Race Asia and The Amazing Race.
Games have also been set in Kuala Lumpur, including include three levels of the game Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and two levels of the PlayStation 2 game Burnout Dominator.
A reality game show set in Kuala Lumpur from February until April 2013 was aired on AXN Asia. The Apprentice Asia was launched on 22 May 2013.
Like most other Asian cities, driving is the main mode of commuting in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, every part of the city is well connected by highways. As capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has a comprehensive road network that leads to the rest of Peninsular Malaysia.
In terms of air connectivity, Kuala Lumpur is served by two airports. The main airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at Sepang, Selangor, which is also the aviation hub of Malaysia, is located about 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of city. The other airport is Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, also known as Subang Skypark and served as the main international gateway to Kuala Lumpur from 1965 until KLIA opened in 1998. KLIA connects the city with direct flights to destinations in six continents around the world, and is the main hub for the national carrier, Malaysia Airlines and low-cost carrier, AirAsia. KLIA can be reached using the KLIA Ekspres a airport rail link service from KL Sentral, which takes twenty-eight minutes, while travelling by car or bus via highway will take about an hour. Air Asia and other low-cost carrier flights do not fly out of KLIA main terminal but from KLIA2 which is two kilometres from KLIA. KLIA2 is served by an extension of the KLIA Ekspres and by buses from KL Sentral. As of 2007, Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport is only used for chartered and turboprop flights by airlines such as Firefly and Berjaya Air.
Public transport in Kuala Lumpur and the rest of the Klang Valley covers a variety of transport modes such as bus, rail and taxi. Despite efforts to promote usage of public transport, utilisation rates are low as only 16 percent of the population used public transport in 2006. However, public transport utilisation is set to rise with the opening of 2 light metro (LRT) extension lines on 30 June 2016. Rail transport in Kuala Lumpur encompasses the light metro (LRT), monorail, commuter rail and Airport rail link. The LRT system has 2 lines namely, Kelana Jaya Line and Ampang Line, connecting many locations in the city with major suburbs in Greater Kuala Lumpur. The Monorail serves various key locations in the city centre whereas the KTM Komuter runs between the city and the suburbs. The main rapid transit hub is KL Sentral, which is an interchange station for the rail systems. KL Sentral is also a hub for intercity railway service namely KTM Intercity and KTM ETS. It provides rail services to as far as Singapore in the south, and Hat Yai, Thailand, in the north. The rail system in Kuala Lumpur is expanding fast with more train lines due for completion or in the pipeline. In December 2016, the 1st phase of Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Project, Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line was completed, the remaining phases of the line has been open in July 2017, providing a more efficient ride around Greater Kuala Lumpur.
The largest public transport operator in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley is Prasarana Malaysia via its subsidiaries of Rapid Rail and Rapid Bus using Rapid KL brands service. Since the take over from Intrakota Komposit Sdn Bhd, Prasarana Malaysia has redrawn the entire bus network of Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley metropolitan area to increase passenger numbers and improve Kuala Lumpur's public transport system. The Prasarana Malaysia has adopted the hub and spoke system to provide greater connectivity, and cut down the need of more buses.
In Kuala Lumpur, most taxis have distinctive white and red liveries. Kuala Lumpur is one of the major ASEAN city with taxis extensively running on natural gas. Taxis can be hailed from taxi stands or from the streets. Nevertheless, taxis are known to charge high rates for foreigners.
Kuala Lumpur is served by Port Klang, located about 64 km (40 mi) southwest of the city. The port is the largest and busiest in the country handling about 6.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of cargo in 2006.