Banda Aceh is the capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, Indonesia. It is located on the island of Sumatra and has an elevation of 35 meters. The city regency covers an area of 64 square kilometres and had a population of 219,070 people, according to the 2000 census. Banda Aceh is located at the northwestern tip of Indonesia at the mouth of the River Krueng Aceh.
The city was originally named Koetaradja/Kutaraja, and became the provincial capital in 1956. Kuta Raja means "City of the King," in reference to the founding of the Aceh Sultanate from Champa origins. Later its name was changed to Bandar Aceh Darussalam, popularly known as Bandar Aceh. The first part of the name comes from the Persian bandar (????) meaning "port" or "haven." Today the city is spelled Banda Aceh, with the loss of "r" in "Bandar". The city is also dubbed to as the "port to Mecca," or the "porch of Mecca" (Indonesian: Serambi Mekkah). This is because during the days when the hajj pilgrims travelled by sea, hajj pilgrims from all over Indonesia would make a stop over in the city before continuing their journey to Mecca. It is also known that some of the earliest Southeast Asian Islamic sultanates—such as Samudra Pasai—were first established in Aceh, which means Islamfirst arrived in Aceh before spreading throughout Southeast Asia.
Banda Aceh was not frequently the subject of international discussion until 26 December 2004, the day the Indian Ocean earthquake struck off the western coast of Sumatra. Banda Aceh was the closest major city to the earthquake's epicenter, and it suffered further damage when a tsunami struck shortly afterward. It was the most severely hit of the locations affected. One hundred sixty-seven thousand people died and many more were injured. The tsunami was caused by an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.3 that struck at about 6:58 am. The epicenter was about 155 miles off the coast of Banda Aceh.