Kudus takes its name from the word al-Quds – the Arabic name for Jerusalem. Founded by the Muslim saint Sunan Kudus and with a venerable mosque dating from the 16th century, it remains an important pilgrimage site. Despite its strong Muslim identity, and in common with much of Java, Kudus retains links with a Hindu past and the slaughter of cows is still forbidden here.
The town is moderately attractive, with an elongated main street dominated by a huge tobacco factory. This is where the first kretek (clove cigarettes) were produced, and today Kudus is still a stronghold of kretek production – there are said to be 25 factories in the town and panniers of green leaves seem to be bulging from every truck in the dry season. Sukun, a manufacturer outside of town, still produces rokok klobot (clove tobacco rolled in corn leaves).