Category Archives: Brunei

Brunei architecture – stunning!

Introducing the tiny Islamic sultanate of Brunei. It’s located in Borneo, between Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia). Brunei is one of the smallest countries in the world. The Brunei architecture is stunning!

Note, I was morally conflicted on going to Brunei for a bunch of reasons, which I’ll outline at the end of this point.

Brunei Itinerary

Take a short trip through Brunei. Start in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), where there’s impressive mosques. The Brunei architecture is stunning! Next, stroll through Kampung Ayer, an entire village on stilts. If you have more time, plan a rainforest visit too!

Brunei architecture photo tour

Below are some views of their illuminated golden-domed Omar Ali Saifudien Mosque and Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque. There’s 29 golden domes!

Brunei's Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque (29 golden domes!)
Brunei’s Jame Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque

Brunei architecture with reflection at night

Above is my photo of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, with its gleaming gold dome.

Brunei backgrounder

Brunei is about the size of Delaware, with a population of 415,000, and the government provides free education, health care, pensions and low-interest loans for the purchase of homes and cars. The Brunei sultanate become the richest man in the world in 1984, at $40 Billion, and reportedly now has $20 Billion.

Oil is the source of most of their wealth. When Shell began pumping in the 1970s, it soon became known as “the Shellfare state.”

Brunei has such amazing architecture! View from inside the Brunei mosque
Amazing architecture! View from inside the mosque

When Shell began pumping in the 1970s, it soon became known as “the Shellfare state.”

Brunei economy

While it’s a tiny state with a small population, they’re still a rich country. Brunei has one of the highest standards of living in the world thanks to large deposits of oil and gas.

A guy was telling us the Sultan gives every citizen a stipend. He said the Sultan keeps raising the minimum salary, so everybody’s making good money if they have a job. Any job!

Rumors persist that they’re running out of oil, and he just gave the citizens more free money to bribe their acceptance.

History of Brunei

Brunei only gained independence in 1984, but has the world’s oldest reigning monarchy and centuries of royal heritage. The Sultan is the only remaining Malay Islamic monarchy in the world. He comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years!

The first sultan ascended the throne in 1405. He founded the dynasty of which the current sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been on the throne for 38 years and is one of the world’s richest individuals.

inside the mosque

Sharia law in Brunei??

This post has focused on the architecture, but that doesn’t mean I’m a supporter. The Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah unapologetically implemented sharia law. “Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair.”

Vanity Fair has an excellent article about the latest, which came to attention when celebrities started boycotting a new Beverly Hills hotel that the Brunei Sultan owns:

Sharia calls for, among other punishments, public flogging of women who have abortions and amputation of limbs and death by stoning of homosexuals, adulterers, and thieves.

Homophobia in Brunei

Brunei is also homophobic, to say the least. And – it’s getting worse.  Last year they added laws to formalize their homophobia and prejudice.

“fines and jail time for offenses such as missing Friday prayers, having a baby outside of wedlock, propagating religions other than Islam, and engaging in indecent behavior. But more draconian measures are on the way – including flogging and amputation of limbs for heavier crimes. The final phase, which allows stoning as a possible punishment for sodomy, will begin in 2015.” —  from MSNBC.

Brunei architecture and others  from around the world

Brunei architecture is impressive, but I also loved the architecture in Bahrain, Hong Kong, Bayon in Cambodia and more.

Adventures in Borneo

My next destination after KL was Borneo, an amazing playground with wildlife, natural wonders, and adventure.

Trivia: Borneo’s the third largest island in the world. Can you name the 1st two?

Borneo actually includes three countries: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.  The vast majority of Borneo (73%) is Indonesian territory (Kalimantan). The area that interested me most is Malaysian Borneo – the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.  Also, the sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area.  [Wikipedia]

Map of Borneo island Map with Borneo