Discovering Gili Asahan

Discovering Gili Asahan

Jip van de Beek

Located in the crystal-clear waters off the southwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia, lies Gili Asahan. This island captivates with its pristine natural landscapes and the profound cultural heritage of its people.

The Untold Story of Gili Asahan

Before the 1970s, Gili Asahan was an uninhabited island, known only to a few within the local community for its spiritual significance. Legends speak of it as the final resting place of an important religious figure from the Arab world, whose shrine was a pilgrimage site, signifying the island's long-standing spiritual importance.

The turning point in the island’s history came with the arrival of Pak Punkarim, a wise, religious, and spiritual Sasak man from Kebun Talo, Lombok. In search of new settlements due to overcrowding in his homeland, Punkarim was drawn to the tranquil beauty of Gili Asahan. After spending a year in meditation, seeking permission from the spirits of the island to establish a community, he received their blessing. Punkarim’s call to his friends and family marked the beginning of human settlement on the island.

The Name

The name Gili Asahan, derived from the Sasak word "asah" meaning calm, safe, a place where you feel at home.  This encapsulates the experience upon setting foot on the island—both in the past and present. Gili Asahan continues to be a haven and community where doors remain unlocked and children can roam freely, unburdened by concern.

The Island Community

From its early days, the island community of Gili Asahan has thrived on agriculture, fishing, and a deep respect for nature. The initial settlers, guided by Punkarim, established a way of life that balanced the needs of the people with the preservation of the island’s natural beauty. They cultivated the land, developed sustainable fishing practices, and built their homes in harmony with their surroundings. This commitment to environmental stewardship and community well-being has been passed down through generations, maintaining the island's idyllic charm and the rich cultural heritage that defines Gili Asahan.

The Spirit of Asahan

Despite the advent of tourism and the challenges of modern development, Gili Asahan has retained its soul. The introduction of eco-friendly lodges and sustainable tourism practices has brought new opportunities while preserving the island’s essence. The community's adherence to the spirit of asah—living a calm and happy life—remains, ensuring that Gili Asahan continues to be a sanctuary for both residents and visitors.

In essence, the heart of Gili Asahan lies in the warmth of its community. Its residents, with their genuine kindness, ensure a visit there feels like a return home!

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