Indonesia Witnesses Largest Exodus Ever Amid Eid al-Fitr Festival Celebrations

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Dawn breaks over the bustling metropolis of Jakarta, but the quiet of the early morning is shattered by a veritable flood of human activity. Millions of Indonesians are embarking on the journey of a lifetime, leaving no bus or train station, airport, or highway untouched as they surge towards their hometowns. It’s time for the joyous festival of Eid al-Fitr, the culmination of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and like a heartbeat returning to its source, the people are drawn back to their roots.

It’s an exodus of epic proportions. The Transportation Ministry predicts that this might very well be the most significant movement of people in Indonesia’s history. The human tide is expected to exceed 193 million, edging close to 72% of the entire population. When compared to last year’s figure of 124 million, roughly 46% of the inhabitants, the year-on-year leap is nothing short of phenomenal.

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Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, holds dear this annual tradition of ‘mudik’. As significant as the fasting that precedes it, mudik sees folks from all walks of life trekking across the vast archipelago, streaming from the bustling cities into the heartland where tradition and values still hold sway. Eid isn’t just a religious festival; it’s a homecoming.

The capital, Jakarta, is a case in point. Thousands throng bus terminals and train stations each day, with over 1.1 million people are believed to leave the greater Jakarta area for the festival. Meanwhile, massive queues of motorists form serpentine lines at ferry ports as they wait to make the crossing from Ciwandan to Sumatra Island or from the picturesque Gilimanuk Port on Bali Island.

Scenes of heavy-laden individuals, their possessions bundled up, are becoming the norm at transit points like Kalideres Bus Terminal in Jakarta. Indeed, waiting seems to be the order of the day, with patience being tested at terminals and wharfs, where people are eager to board buses and boats that will whisk them away to their respective destinations.

Some are even fortunate enough to be part of a free trip home organized by the Indonesian National Police in anticipation of the holiday rush. As they wait for the departure of their buses to Central Java, the air is thick with anticipation, punctuated by the thrum of engines and the constant hum of activity.

There’s a shared sense of purpose and a common joy that shines through despite the inherent chaos of such monumental movement. From the train station at Senen where determined travellers await their hometown-bound trains to the multitude of vehicles lining up at Gilimanuk port, the undercurrent of excitement is palpable.

This isn’t merely a testament to Indonesia’s religious observance; it’s proof that even in an increasingly complex world, the importance of a ‘home’ and ‘family’ in one’s heart hasn’t diminished. When the call of the Eid al-Fitr festival rings clear, millions of Indonesians know it’s time to return to the warm, embracing fold of their hometowns and families.