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History

Ancient history and settlement.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of Sabah in East Malaysia, a cultural melting pot and major tourist gateway to explore the northern region of Borneo Island or more popularly, ‘Land Below the Wind’. Abbreviated locally as ‘KK’, the city is the seventh largest in Malaysia, hosting a population over 450 million people that compose a diverse variety of ethnic groups including native tribes of coastal and highland origin.

Surrounded by lovely beaches, tropical islands and picturesque landscapes, KK and its outlying regions are natural tourist magnets – home to an abundant range of hotels providing luxury and budget accommodation for family and business, with some exclusive world-class resorts that occupy entire bays.

Geography

Ancient history and settlement.

Kota Kinabalu, formerly Jesselton, city of Sabah state, East Malaysia, on the northwest coast of Borneo. Although razed by bombing during World War II (1939–45), the site was chosen in 1946 for the new capital of British North Borneo (now Sabah) because of the deepwater anchorage at Gaya Bay on the South China Sea; reconstruction and expansion, including reclaiming of the bay’s foreshore, followed. Residential and commercial buildings now crowd a narrow strip of land between a string of offshore coral islands and the Crocker Range to the east.

The original settlement on nearby Gaya Island was burned in 1897 by Mat Salleh, an anti-British Muslim rebel, which may explain the capital’s local name, Api-Api (“Place of Fire”); an alternative rendering of the name refers to a kind of mangrove tree found locally. Reestablished on its present site in 1899 as Jesselton (for Sir Charles Jessel, a director of the British North Borneo Company), in 1968 it was renamed Kota Kinabalu, or “Fort of Kinabalu,” referring to nearby Mount Kinabalu, which, at 13,455 feet (4,101 metres), is the highest peak in Malaysia.

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