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History of Keningau

Keningau was named after koningau (cinnamon), a popular spice used by natives for their rituals and also cooking. Cinnamon from Keningau was much sought after in markets overseas. Since the beginning of the early settlements, this town is known for its forest products notably cinnamon.

Keningau started its modest beginnings in 1893 when it was formally administered by the British North Borneo Chartered Company by setting up a station and then a district office, which would then develop and extend government power in the interior residence. During this time, cinnamon that was collected from Keningau was sent to Jesselton via rail from Tenom to be shipped to Great Britain, where it is then distributed and marketed around Europe.

Development and infrastructure started to develop in favour of local residents until the operation of the chartered company was halted following Japanese occupation in Keningau between 1942 and 1945 during World War II. The township had to restore itself after the war and pick up the pieces. Slowly, but eventually, the town developed.

At the beginning of the 1960s, nationhood was at its height when Sabah (North Borneo renamed) gained independence, followed by the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, in which prominent leaders in Keningau played a major role in ensuring the security and guarantees of the local community. After post-independence, more recent chapters were revealed in the district. After the Indonesian Confrontation in 1963-1966, the timber industry in Keningau expanded by the end of the 20th century.

At the start of the 21st century, Keningau developed and grew immensely, while at the same time preserving its heritage and identity, even though the journey was not an easy one.

Keningau is famous for its Tamu or markets held in Bingkor on Thursdays and in the city centre on Sundays. It serves as a point for traders displaying and selling their goods, from fresh items to a wide range of handicrafts. It also includes a wide variety of hand-woven baskets and trays, known as local products of the Kadazandusun people. The Keningau district is the place to be for nature lovers and explorers.