Stories from my travels around the world


Brunei, June 2004

Bandar Seri Begawan

page 3/5

The Royal Swords and shields
The Royal Swords and shields

In the rest of the museum you can see and read much more about the history of Brunei, but especially about the Sultan and his family. I think the Royal Regalia Building reflects a lot of the feeling you'll get when visiting Brunei. There is one main character in the country: the Sultan, the Sultan, and again the Sultan.

I got a bit of a weird feeling though when we entered the room with the traditional jewel-encrusted coronation crowns. The guard in the room followed our every move to make sure we didn't do anything that was not allowed. Our guide seemed much more careful as well with what he said in this particular room. Well, let me say, it was a 'different' experience to visit this place. It was interesting and nice to have been there, but I won't do it again :-))

The Sultan's Palace

The Sultan's Palace: Istana Nurul Iman
The Sultan's Palace: Istana Nurul Iman

The current Sultan of Brunei is Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah and this is the entrance gate to his palace. The Sultan's palace, the Istana Nurul Iman, is said to be magnificent, but all you can see of it most of the year is this entrance gate. Far away in the background you can see a golden dome of the palace glittering in the sun. The palace is located about 3 kilometres west of the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan.

The Sultan's Palace: Istana Nurul Iman
The Sultan's Palace: Istana Nurul Iman

There is only one occasion that you can go inside the Sultan's palace and that is after the fasting month of the Ramadan during the festival of Hari Raya Puasa. The palace is open to the public for three days in a row. If you are here that time of year I think it is absolutely worth while in trying to go.

The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

From a distance you can already see this impressive mosque: the Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. It was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Sultan's reign. This mosque is the largest mosque in Brunei and it is clearly visible along the main route into town from the airport. And as you can see it is beautiful and impressive! I think it is a must see on a visit to Brunei.

The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

But before we entered the mosque we spend some time walking around it and admiring it architecture. In the picture you can see one of the blue and white tiled minarets. And of course the minaret is topped with a golden dome, as there is a lot of gold used in this mosque. The towers are so high that it is hard to capture them from top to bottom in one picture.

The Dome of the mosque

 The Dome of the mosque
The Dome of the mosque

The first thing that probably will catch your eye is the brightly shining dome, made of 24-carat gold. The official name of the mosque is Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, but the locals often refer to it as the Kiarong Mosque. I thought it looked amazing, hahaha, and so did my camera, because it didn't want to stop clicking pictures ;-)

Visiting the mosque

Visiting the mosque
Visiting the mosque

It's time to take a look inside the mosque. Before entering the mosque you must take of your shoes and woman are asked to dress modestly. As I had no clue I was going to visit Brunei, let alone a mosque, I wasn't properly dressed for the occasion. Eeks! And I wanted so badly to see the interior of this beautiful mosque!

I felt a bit embarrassed about the fact that I wasn't dressed right to enter the mosque and apologized to my guide before hand. But he told me it wasn't a problem at all and that they would have robes that I could lend so I could enter the mosque. Phew, what a relief! So here I am, happily smiling, and enthusiastic to see the mosques interior.

Opening hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 8am - 12pm, 2pm - 3pm and 5pm - 6pm. The mosque is closed to non-Muslims on Thursdays. It is open on Saturday provided that there is no official function the following day.

Not allowed to take pictures inside

Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside, so I just have to tell you that it is worth the visit to take a look inside. I especially liked the way the light came in to the prayer hall, just beautiful.

The mosque was built by the current Sultan, which is the 29th Sultan of Brunei. And that number is symbolic throughout the whole mosque. Everything you count will add up to 29. Like when you take the steps for instance, there are exactly 29 of them. In the whole mosque you can see that there has been put a lot of thought and attention to the architecture and details of the building.

Beautiful gardens surrounding the mosque

The gardens of the mosque
The gardens of the mosque

The mosque is surrounded by some beautiful gardens. It is has a park-like setting, with water fountains and well-tended lawns and flower gardens. A beautiful place to stroll around, relax and think over all the impressions of the day.

Read more on page 4 about Brunei....

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