The city's area is 199.3 square kilometres and it had a population of around 1.6 million in 2013. Its built-up area has 1,976,168 inhabitants covering Makassar City and 15 districts. Its official metropolitan area, known as Mamminasata, with 17 additional districts, covers an area of 2,548 square kilometres and had a population of around 2.4 million according to 2010 Census.
The trade in spices figured prominently in the history of Sulawesi, which involved frequent struggles between rival native and foreign powers for control of the lucrative trade during the pre-colonial and colonial period, when spices from the region were in high demand in the West. Much of South Sulawesi's early history was written in old texts that can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
Makassar is mentioned in the Nagarakretagama, a Javanese eulogy composed in 14th century during the reign of Majapahit king Hayam Wuruk. In the text, Makassar is mentioned as an island under Majapahit dominance, alongside Butun, Salaya and Banggawi. Nevertheless, the 9th King of Gowa Tumaparisi Kallonna (1510-1546) is thought to be the first person who actually developed the city of Makassar. He moved the royal center from the interior to the coast, built a fortress at the mouth of the Jeneberang River, and appointed a Shahbandar to regulate trade.
Beginning in the sixteenth century, Makassar was the dominant trading center of eastern Indonesia, and soon became one of the largest cities in island Southeast Asia. The Makassar kings maintained a policy of free trade, insisting on the right of any visitor to do business in the city, and rejecting the attempts of the Dutch to establish a monopoly.
Tolerant religious attitudes meant that as Islam became the dominant faith in the region, Christians and others were still able to trade in the city. With these attractions, Makassar was a key center for Malays working in the spice trade, as well as a valuable base for European and Arab traders from much further afield.
The first European settlers were Portuguese sailors. When the Portuguese reached Sulawesi in 1511, they found Makassar a thriving cosmopolitan Entrepôt, where Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Siamese, Javanese, and Malays came to trade their manufactured metal goods and textiles for pearls, gold, copper, camphor and spices – nutmeg, cloves and mace imported from the interior and the neighbouring Spice Islands of Maluku. By the 16th century, Makassar had become Sulawesi's major port and centre of the powerful Gowa and Tallo sultanates which between them had a series of 11 fortresses and strongholds and a fortified sea wall that extended along the coast. Portuguese rulers called the city Macáçar.
The arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century altered events dramatically. They finally replaced the Portuguese as colonial masters in 1667. Their first objective was to create a hegemony over the spice trade and their first move was to capture the fort of Makassar in 1667, which they rebuilt and renamed Fort Rotterdam. From this base they managed to destroy the strongholds of the Sultan of Gowa who was then forced to live on the outskirts of Makassar. Following the Java War (1825–30), Prince Diponegoro was exiled to Fort Rotterdam until his death in 1855.
The character of this old trading center changed as a walled city known as Vlaardingen grew. Gradually, in defiance of the Dutch, the Arabs, Malays and Buddhist returned to trade outside the fortress walls, and were joined later by the Chinese.
The town again became a collecting point for the produce of eastern Indonesia – the copra, rattan, Pearls, trepang and sandalwood and the famous oil made from bado nuts used in Europe as men's hair dressing – hence the anti-macassars (embroidered cloths protecting the head-rests of upholstered chairs).
Although the Dutch controlled the coast, it was not until the early 20th century that they gained power over the southern interior through a series of treaties with local rulers. Meanwhile, Dutch missionaries converted many of the Toraja people to Christianity. By 1938, the population of Makassar had reached around 84,000 – a town described by writer Joseph Conrad as "the prettiest and perhaps, cleanest looking of all the towns in the islands".
In World War II the Makassar area was defended by approximately 1000 men of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army commanded by Colonel M. Vooren. He decided that he could not defend the coast, and was planning to fight a guerrilla war inland. The Japanese landed near Makassar on 9 February 1942. The defenders retreated but were soon overtaken and captured.
Following the Indonesian National Revolution in 1950, Makassar was the site of fighting between pro-Federalist forces under Captain Abdul Assiz and Republican forces under Colonel Sunkono during the Makassar uprising. By the 1950s, the population had increased to such a degree that many of the historic sites gave way to modern development, and today one needs to look very carefully to find the few remains of the city's once grand history.
Makassar is also a major fishing center in Sulawesi. One of its major industries is the trepang (sea-cucumber) industry. Trepang fishing brought the Makassan people into contact with Indigenous Australian peoples of northern Australia, long before European settlement (from 1788).
C. C. MacKnight in his 1976 work entitled Voyage to Marriage: Macassan Trepangers in Northern Australia has shown that they began frequenting the north of Australia around 1700 in search of trepang (sea-slug, sea cucumber, Beche-de-mer), an edible Holothurian. They left their waters during the Northwest Monsoon in December or January for what is now Arnhem Land, Marriage or Marega and the Kimberley region or Kayu Djawa. They returned home with the south-east trade winds in April.
A fleet of between 24 and 26 Macassan perahus was seen in 1803 by French explorers under Nicolas Baudin on the Holothuria Banks in the Timor Sea. In February 1803, Matthew Flinders in the Investigator met six perahus with 20–25 men each on board and was told by the fleet's chief Pobasso, that there were 60 perahus then on the north Australian coast. They were fishing for trepang and appeared to have only a small compass as a navigation aid. In June 1818 Macassan trepang fishing was noted by Phillip Parker King in the vicinity of Port Essington in the Arafura Sea. In 1865 R.J. Sholl, then Government Resident for the British settlement at Camden Sound (near Augustus Island in the Kimberley region) observed seven 'Macassan' perahus with a total of around 300 men on board. He believed that they made kidnapping raids and ranged as far south as Roebuck Bay (later Broome) where 'quite a fleet' was seen around 1866. Sholl believed that they did not venture south into other areas such as Nickol Bay (where the European pearling industry commenced around 1865) due to the absence of trepang in those waters. The Macassan voyages appear to have ceased sometime in the late nineteenth century, and their place was taken by other sailors operating from elsewhere in the Indonesian Archipelago.
The city is southern Sulawesi's primary port, with regular domestic and international shipping connections. It is nationally famous as an important port of call for the pinisi boats, sailing ships which are among the last in use for regular long-distance trade.
During the colonial era, the city was widely known as the namesake of Makassar oil, which it exported in great quantity. Makassar ebony is a warm black hue, streaked with tan or brown tones, and highly prized for use in making fine cabinetry and veneers.
Nowadays, as the largest city in Sulawesi Island and Eastern Indonesia, the city's economy depends highly on the service sector, which makes up approximately 70% of activity. Restaurant and hotel services are the largest contributor (29.14%), followed by transportation and communication (14.86%), trading (14.86), and finance (10.58%). Industrial activity is next most important after the service sector, with 21.34% of overall activity.
Makassar has a public transportation system called pete-pete. A pete-pete (known elsewhere in Indonesia as an angkot) is a minibus that has been modified to carry passengers. The route of Makassar's pete-petes is denoted by the letter on the windshield. Makassar is also known for its becak (pedicabs), which are smaller than the "becak" in the island of Java. In Makassar, people who drive pedicabs are called Daeng. In addition to becak and pete-pete, the city has a government-run bus system, and taxis.
A bus rapid transit (BRT), which is known as "Trans Mamminasata" was started in 2014. It has some routes through Makassar to cities around Makassar region such as Maros, Takallar, and Gowa. Run by Indonesian Transportation Department, each bus has 20 seats and space for 20 standing passengers.
A 35-kilometer monorail in the areas of Makassar, Maros Regency, Sungguminasa (Gowa Regency), and Takalar Regency (the Mamminasata region) will be realised in 2014 with cost predicted Rp.4 trillion ($468 million). The memorandum of understanding has been signed on 25 July 2011 by Makassar city, Maros Regency and Gowa Regency.
The city of Makassar, its outlying districts, and the South Sulawesi Province are served by Hasanuddin International Airport. The airport is located outside the Makassar city administration area, being situated in the nearby Maros Regency.
The city is served by Soekarno-Hatta Sea Port. In January 2012 it was announced that due to limited capacity of the current dock at Soekarno-Hatta sea port, it will be expanded to 150x30 square meters to avoid the need for at least two ships to queue every day.
The executive head of the city is the mayor, who is elected by direct vote for a period of five years. The mayor is assisted by a deputy-mayor, who is also an elected person. There is a legislative assembly for the city, members of which are also elected for a period of five years. Makassar City is divided into 15 administrative districts and 153 urban villages. Districts in Makassar city are Biringkanaya, Bontoala, Sangkarrang Islands, Makassar, Mamajang, Manggala, Mariso, Panakkukang, Rappocini, Tallo, Tamalanrea, Tamalate, Ujung Pandang, Land Edge and Wajo.
This official metropolitan area covers 2,473 km2 and had a population of 2,225,048 at the 2010 Census. The metropolitan area of Makassar (Mamminasata) extends over 46 administrative districts (kecamatan), consisting of all 14 districts within the city, all 9 districts of Takalar Regency, 11 (out of 18) districts of Gowa Regency and 12 (out of 14) districts of Maros Regency.
Districts of Takalar Regency which included in the metro area are, Mangara Bombang, Mappakasunggu, Sanrobone, Polombangkeng Selatan, Pattallassang, Polombangkeng Utara, Galesong Selatan, Galesong and Galesong Utara. Districts of Gowa Regency which included in the metro area are, Somba Opu, Bontomarannu, Pallangga, Bajeng, Bajeng Barat, Barombong, Manuju, Pattallassang, Parangloe, Bontonompo and Bontonompo Selatan. Districts of Maros Regency which included in the metro area are, Maros Baru, Turikale, Marusu, Mandai, Moncongloe, Bontoa, Lau, Tanralili, Tompo Bulu, Bantimurung, Simbang and Cenrana.
Makassar has a tropical monsoon climate (Köppen Am).
The average temperature for the year in Makassar is 27.5 °C or 81.5 °F, with little variation due to its near-equatorial latitude: the average high is around 32.5 °C or 90.5 °F and the average low around 22.5 °C or 72.5 °F all year long.
In contrast to the virtually consistent temperature, rainfall shows wide variation between months in Makassar due to movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Makassar averages around 3,137 millimetres or 123.50 inches of rain on 187 days during the year, but during the month with least rainfall – August – only 15 millimetres or 0.59 inches on two days of rain can be expected. In contrast, during its very wet wet season, Makassar can expect over 530 millimetres or 21 inches per month between December and February. During the wettest month of January, 734 millimetres or 28.90 inches can be expected to fall on twenty-seven rainy days.
Makassar is home to several prominent landmarks including:
Makassar is a multi-ethnic city, populated mostly by Makassarese and Buginese. The remainder come from Toraja, Mandar, Buton, China, Java, and other areas. The current population is approximately 1.5 million, with a Metropolitan total of 2.2 million.
The city is divided into fourteen districts (kecamatan), tabulated below with their 2010 Census population.
By 2007 the city government began requiring all skirts of schoolgirls be below the knee.
Makassar has several famous traditional foods. The most famous is Coto Makassar. It is a stew made from the mixture of nuts, spices, and selected offal which may include beef brain, tongue and intestine. Konro rib dish is also a popular traditional food in Makassar. Both Coto Makassar and Konro are usually eaten with Burasa or Ketupat, a glutinous rice cake. Another famous cuisine from Makassar is Ayam Goreng Sulawesi (Celebes fried chicken); the chicken is marinated with traditional soy sauce recipe for up to 24 hours before being fried to a golden colour. The dish is usually served with chicken broth, rice and special sambal (chilli sauce).
In addition, Makassar is the home of Pisang Epe (pressed banana), as well as Pisang Ijo (green banana). Pisang Epe is a banana which is pressed, grilled, and covered with palm sugar sauce and sometimes eaten with Durian. Many street vendors sell Pisang Epe, especially around the area of Losari beach. Pisang Ijo is a banana covered with green colored flours, coconut milk, and syrup. Pisang Ijo is sometimes served iced, and often eaten during Ramadan.