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. Sabah occupies the eastern part of North Borneo and is East Malaysia's second largest state with an area of 74,500sq km. Sabah has the South China Sea on the west and the Sulu and Celebes seas on the east and a coastline of some 1440km. Sabah's terrain is rugged, with Mt. Kinabalu, at 4,101 metres, dominating the surrounding landscape Sabah is mountainous with lush tropical rain forests and its population of nearly two million is made up of 32 colourful ethnic communities. Access to Malaysia eastern gateway is through Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu, which receives flights from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kuching, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Brunei, Jakarta, Seoul, and Taipei. Domestic travel in this vast state is via daily flights between Labuan, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, and Tawau, though large areas are still inaccessible. A rail network stretches from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, and buses, taxis, and boats are also available.
Sabah is also endowed with a heterogenous population. The indigenous population are made up of some 30 groups using more than 50 indigenous languages and not less than 80 dialects. The main ethnic groups are: the Dusun/Kadazan - the largest group who make up nearly one third of the population, the Murut, the Paitan and the Bajau. Other indigenous groups include the Bonggi, the Iranun, the Ida'an and the Brunei. In addition, the Chinese make up the main nonindigenous group. Therefore, the people of Sabah are varied in their respective cultural backgrounds.
Based on archaeological findings, Sabah was inhabited by people from as early as 28,000 years ago. Islam came to Sabah towards the end of the 15 and 16 centuries Ihrough the Arab and Indian traders and also as a result of the expansion of the Brunei Malay Sultanate. It was another two centuries more before the Europeans came to Sabah. In 1775, the British East-India Company opened a trading base in Balembangan Island. However, it was the British North Borneo Chartered Company who effectively ruled Sabah from 1881 until 1942 when the Japanese occupied the state. After the devastation of the War, Sabah became a British Crown Colony until 31 August 1963 when it obtained self-government from the British. On 16 September 1963, Sabah together with Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya joined the Federation of Malaysia.