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Johor Culture

Culture in Johor has been influenced by visitors and traders throughout history. The biggest influence was by the Javanese and the Arabs. The strong Arab influence is apparent in performances like Zapin and Hamdolok, and musical instruments like gambus. Other visible legacies in Johor Bahru are the names Wadi Hana and Wadi Hassan, areas populated by Arab community from Hadhramaut in the southeast of Yemen. Wadi means valley in Arabic.


Cekak Musang and Teluk Belanga are types of collar design of the male attire known as 'baju melayu' or translated as 'Malay clothing' amongst the Malay community. It is said that Teluk Belanga was designed by Sultan Abu Bakar in 1866 to commemorate the transfer of Johor capital from Teluk Belanga to Johor Bahru. The Teluk Belanga design is a simple hemmed round collar with a stiff stitching called 'tulang belut' or translated as 'eel's spine' and ended with a loop at the end to fit a 'kancing' or button. This collar design creates an exposed neck in contrast to the neck covering of the 'Cekak Musang' design that is a raised stiff collar of about 1-2cm with an opening down to the chest. The collar ends have matching holes to fit in the 'butang' or buttons.

Zapin Dance

Zapin is a form of dance which is popular in Malaysia especially in the State of Johor. It is believed to have been introduced by Muslim missionaries from the Middle East in the 14th century.

In the olden days, only males were allowed to perform but nowadays, female dancers are included. It used to be performed exclusively for religious ceremonies but through the years it has become a form of traditional entertainment, hence the participation of female dancers is allowed.

The dancers usually perform in pairs and are accompanied by a traditional musical ensemble that normally consists of the gambus, accordion, violin, marwas (bongos), rebana (drum) and dok.

Kuda Kepang

Kuda kepang is another form of dance or game performed by Johoreans, especially of Javanese descent. Kuda kepang is a legless horse-shaped puppet that is straddled by the performers. Usually, comprising a troupe of 10 to 15 people; performed in wedding ceremonies and cultural celebrations. There are several possible origins of Kuda Kepang. It is said to have originated from the struggles of "Wali Songo", a group of nine Islamic preachers in Java. Others said it originated from the movement of horses commanded by Ali, the fourth Muslim Caliph. The musical instruments used in kuda kepang performance are 'angklong', 'gendang', 'gong', 'kinong', 'jidor', 'soron kecil' and 'bonang'.


Hamdolok originated from the influence of Middle-East culture introduced by Arabs in Johor. It is a traditional theatre performed during weddings and festivals. It is a blend of artistic characters of both the Middle-East and local Malay communities. Instruments used in the performance include the gambus, tambourine, maracas and conga drums. The Hamdolok was also inspired by the Bedouin celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.


Food and cuisine in Johor are strongly influenced by the Arabs and the surrounding Malay archipelago. The dishes are a unique blend of ingredients not found anywhere in Malaysia. Sadly, due to the difficult and sometimes tedious as well as complicated recipe, these dishes have become rare delights that can only be sampled in celebrations and state banquets.

Laksa Johor - A cuisine originated from Johor. It differs from Laksa Penang by having coconut milk added to the gravy which is eaten with spaghetti and salad.

Mee Bandung - Also a noodle dish originated from Johor, specifically from Muar. The term 'bandung' is not derived from Bandung, Indonesia but as a term for anything that is mixed from many ingredients.

Penganan Kacau Keledek - A very sweety dessert normally served for the Johor monarch and elites. It is made from sweet potatoes, lots of eggs (at least 40), fresh coconut milk and sugar. It is mixed together and stirred on a simmering heat for at least 4 hours.

Mee Rebus - The famous noodle dish which consists of Mee (a spaghetti like mixture of flour,salt and egg) and is served with a tangy, spicy brown sauce accompanied with crispy crumbs and boiled eggs.

Arisa - A unique chicken dish very much Arabic in origin, normally served to the royalties and social elites in Johor at formal functions and celebrations. The boneless chicken meat is cooked to resemble a pudding-like consistency consumed with honey and chilli, it is indeed a rare treat.

Satay - A favourite Malay delicacy in Johor, mostly found in Johor Bahru and Muar, but otherwise popularly available all over the State.

Roti Tirai or Roti Jala - The name is derived from bread and net or 'roti' and 'jala' in Malay. A special ladle with a five hole perforation is used to make the bread look like a fish net. It is usually eaten spicy with curry or sweet with 'serawa'.

Serawa - Made from a mixture of boiled coconut milk, brown sugar and pandan leaf.