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THE PEOPLE AND CULTURE OF BRUNEI

Brunei Darulssalam is a small yet prosperous country situated on the island of Borneo and flanked by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. This oil-rich land is known primarily for the astounding wealth of its Sultan and its inhabitants, where the citizens live a tax-free, heavily-subsidised existence. It comes as no surprise that its population enjoys one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, owing to its wealth of natural resources relative to the size of the country and its population.Brunei is also well-known for its multi-faceted beauty - a quaint little country with so much aesthetic and intrinsic qualities to offer.

Culture
Brunei is a land steeped in culture and traditions - and the Bruneians are quite proud of that fact, too. Brunei embraces the Old Malay World culture, of which practices can still seen in the country today, such as the use of the Jawi script - an archaic script consisting of Arabic characters, used as a mode of written communication of the Malays in olden times - in most (written) official communications, official ceremonies, daily customs, and formalities. But although Brunei still holds on tight to its old culture and traditions, it is a vastly modern country in terms of trade, economy and technology - a fact which is the very core of Brunei's appeal and charms.

In the heart of its strong Malay culture and traditions, lies its strong Islamic foundation. This unique and balanced blend of Malay culture and Islamic practices is the Bruneians' way of life - a national philosophy, where faith is interspersed with culture - which is the core of its unique cultural identity. But despite the fact that Brunei remains a devout Muslim country, it still maintains a respectful tolerance towards other religions and beliefs. This mutual respect and understanding creates an environment that is both harmonious and stable, fostering unity within the country.

People
Many cultural and linguistic differences make Brunei Malays distinct from the larger Malay populations in nearby Malaysia and Indonesia, even though they are ethnically related and share the Muslim religion. Brunei has hereditary nobility, carrying the title Pengiran. The Sultan can award to commoners the title Pehin, the equivalent of a life peerage awarded in the United Kingdom. The Sultan also can award his subjects the title Dato, the equivalent of a knighthood in the United Kingdom, and Datin, the equivalent of damehood.Bruneians adhere to the practice of using complete full names with all titles, including the title Haji (for men) or Hajah (for women) for those who have made the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Brunei Malay women wear the tudong, a traditional head covering. Men wear the songkok, a traditional Malay cap. Men who have completed the Haj can wear a white songkok.

The requirements to attain Brunei citizenship include passing tests in Malay culture, customs, and language as well as the national Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy. Stateless permanent residents of Brunei are given International Certificates of Identity, which allow them to travel overseas. The majority of ethnic Chinese in Brunei are permanent residents, and many are stateless. An amendment to the National Registration and Immigration Act of 2002 allowed female Bruneian citizens to transfer their nationality to their children. In May 2006, the law changed to allow citizenship to permanent residents who have contributed to the country's economic growth, to women married to a citizen for 2 years, to women married to permanent residents for 5 years, and to children of permanent resident fathers after the age of 2 years and 6 months.

According to unofficial sources there are approximately 20,000 "stateless" persons in the country, including persons born and raised in the country who were not automaticaly accorded citizenship and its attendant rights but were granted permanent resident status. In July 2009, the Land Code Strata Act, which allows permanent residents to own units of multistory property for a maximum of 99 years, came into force.

 

Architecture
Many buildings in Brunei incorporate Islamic style and influences in its architecture, especially its mosques. The Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, Brunei's largest mosque, is easily recognisable by its spectacular 24-carat golden domes which glitter in the bright sun during the day and glow during the night. It also features fountains sprouting `colourful' jets of water at night, gold-plated tiles, marble stones and fine Islamic calligraphy on its interior, making it one of the most magnificent mosques in the world. Another mosque which is just as impressive is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, also topped with golden domes. The mosque is also considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. It sits on an artificial lagoon near the Brunei River, with a life-sized replica of an ancient royal barge sitting outside the mosque in the waters. Like the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, it is also lit up at night, giving an ethereal quality to it.

The palace of the Sultan, the Istana Nurul Iman (Nurul Iman Palace) is reputedly the largest residential palace in the world, with over 1700 rooms in it. It is located on top of the hill overlooking the city, and its majestic domes are covered all over with 22-carat gold leaves. Its sheer size and intricate design render the palace a truly spectacular sight to behold, but it is only open to public during Eid-ul Fitri, the only time when the Sultan meets and greets his visitors.The raw, unspoilt nature of the island of Borneo means that Brunei is also a prime example of natural beauty, despite its modern establishments. Well-preserved rainforests make up more than 70% of the land area in Brunei, and its national parks are some of the finest in Asia - examples of the perfect ecosystem. Best of all, these national parks are easily accessible as they're located near the main cities.


The Natural Beauty
The Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei's main nature reserve and wildlife field-study centre, is home to an extensive array of flora and fauna from thousands of different species. Taking a luscious ride down the river in a longboat gives you the opportunity to experience Borneo's wildlife up close
and personal - proboscis monkeys hanging off the
branches, Nipah palm trees gracing both sides of the riverbank, melodious twittering from colourful birds perched on branches of trees and butterflies from some of the rarest species fluttering around. Alternatively, you can also choose to walk through its lush surroundings, dense with plants from hundreds of species - some of which could not be found anywhere else in the world.
Brunei's beaches are also perfect getaway spots with its pristine, white sandy beaches and private atmosphere. Muara Beach, which is less than 27kms from Brunei's capital, is perfect for family outings with its well-equipped picnic areas and a children's playground. Pantai Seri Kenangan Beach is a scenic spot located just a few minutes' drive from the town of Tutong. The beach's feature attraction is a narrow strip of land which is flanked by the South China Sea on one side and the Tutong River on the other. Meragang Beach's unspoilt beauty provides the perfect background for those who want a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

There is so much more to Brunei, a tiny country with huge wonders, that could only be seen to be believed. Direct flights to Brunei are available from Asian and Middle-East destinations, and major European cities. It can also be reached on land via trains and coaches from neigbouring Sabah and Sarawa

Recommended Tour Package: 3D2N HIGHLIGHTS OF BRUNEI