Saturday, 16 February 2008

Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Considered as one of the grandest monuments to Islam in the whole region, the magnificent Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is the brainchild of His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah and Yang Dipertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam.

Known locally as the Kiarong Mosque as it is situated in Kampong Kiarong, a few kilometres from the capital, it was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne. The Mosque was officially opened on a Thursday, 14 July,1994.

The fine artistry of the structure's basic design as well as the interiors shows the meticulous attention to details and reveals the depth of the love that inspired the vision to build this splendid symbol of devotion to Islam . The stunning edifice with its artfully landscaped gardens and fountains that add to the serene ambience, is a memorable place to visit and certainly a must for visitors

Visitors may enter the mosque but are asked to remove their shoes before entering and to exercise due consideration for people praying. Women are should cover their heads and dress conservatively.
Visiting Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 8am to 12noon, 2pm to 3pm & 5pm to 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.

The Malay Technology Museum

The Malay Technology Museum opened in 1990, a stately red- roofed building set in a landscaped garden on the banks of the Brunei River below the Brunei Museum. It was donated by the Royal Dutch Shell Group to mark Brunei Darussalam's independence.

The museum has three galleries portraying the development of handicrafts, architecture and house-building in Brunei Darussalam; fishing and boat construction in Kampong Ayer and, lastly, the life of some of the indigenous ethnic people of Brunei Darussalam. Imaginative designers have used original materials to construct mock-ups longhouses and other traditional buildings, including the palm-built homes that used to dominate Kampong Ayer. Other models show the construction of blowpipes and the processing of sago. There are exhibits of the ingenious fish traps which have been developed over the years. The techniques and processes that go into Brunei Darussalam's most famous crafts - songket cloth and brassware - are also displayed here. The museum opens daily from :900hr till 1700hr except Tuesdays, Friday 900hr to 1130hr and 1430hr to 1700hr.

Brunei Museum

The museum is the largest in Brunei Darussalam, four kilometres outside Bandar Seri Begawan on a hill at Kota Batu, which itself is an archaeological site of great importance. Lying in 48 hectares of parkland, the museum is a fine example of Islamic architecture with many of the engravings and designs taken from typical Brunei Malay patterns, some of which appear on Sultan Bolkiah's tomb.

The galleries inside comprise an imaginative natural history section and a glittering collection of Islamic art, which includes many rare manuscripts, works of art and artefacts from the Islamic world dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Galleries are also devoted to Bruneian artefacts and customs, ceramics, fine art and the oil industry in - a display set up by Brunei Shell Petroleum.

A sixth gallery is reserved for temporary exhibitions and the lower ground floor houses the administrative and technical section of the museum which is not normally open to the public. Some of the larger exhibits are in covered shelters in park land at the back of the museum.

Getting there: Take Jalan Residency out of Bandar Seri Begawan keeping the Brunei river on your right. The name changes to Jalan Kota Batu and after four Kilometres the road rises past the acient tomb of Sultan Bolkiah and Sultan Sharif Ali The Museum is on the right on top of the hill. Public busses (Central and Eastern line 11 and 39), leaving from the central bus station, stop at the museum.

Opens daily from :900h till 1700hr except Tuesday, Friday 900h to 1130h and 1430hr to 1700hr

Sultan Bolkiah's Tomb

In the golden age of Brunei Darussalam's empire, its territories stretched along the coast of Borneo, to Indonesia and north to the Philippines as far as Luzon Island.

This golden age had much to do with Sultan Bolkiah v(1473-1521), now buried in a splendid tomb in Kota Batu, the old capital of Brunei Darussalam. As the fifth Sultan, he spread the territory of the country to its maximum and led his fleet on numerous voyages to Java, Malacca, and the Philippines where, for a short time, he seized and held Manila.

Known as Nakhoda Ragam, the 'Singing Captain', he died as he was returning home from one of his voyages to Java. One story is that in his declining years he took with him on his voyages a band of artisans whose job it was to prepare royal tombs in remote parts of the archipelago so that, if he died at sea, he could be buried at the nearest site. The finest tomb is said to be at Kota Batu, which holds The remains of Sultan Bolhiah (1473-1521) is of exquisite workmanship carved from hard basaltic stone which was damaged by a round of shots fired from Spanish guns in the 17th century.

Close by is another well-preserved tomb, that of Sharif Ali, the third Sultan who ruled only seven years from 1425-32. He was an Arab who married the daughter of the previous sultan, and upon succeeding to the throne, took the name Berkat.

He built mosques, converted the town to Islam and is credited with sinking 40 junks laden with stone at the mouth of the Brunei River as a defensive barrier. A later sultan was also credited with this strategy.

Kota Batu is an extraordinary site in Southeast Asia, being the only one known to show evidence of occupation more or less continuously for 1,000 years. Discoveries have included coins and ceramics dating back to the Tang Dynasty.

The Royal Regalia Museum

The Royal Regalia Museum (Bangunan Alat Kebesaran Diraja) was established to commemorate the 1992 Silver Jubilee of His Majesty's accession to the throne.

The hall was built on the site of the Winston Churchill Memorial Building which has been renamed, modernised and considerably extended. The hall's central feature is a spectacular new circular gallery topped with a mosaic-tiled dome which sits in the cup of the original crescent-shaped building, constructed in 1971.

Pride of place is given to the royal coronation carriage surrounded by regalia from the royal crowning ceremony. To the left of the main entrance is the Constitutional History Gallery, set up in 1984 as part of the country's independence celebrations. This traces the history of the constitution and the development of from 1847 when the first Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed with Britain. On permanent show are documents, photographs, rare recordings and films while a large area concentrates on the proclamation of the 1959 constitution - the country's first written constitution. To the right is gallery devoted to the life of His Majesty up to the time of the coronation. It recreates his early childhood and chronicles his schooling in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and finally in Britain at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

The coronation scene at the Lapau in 1968 is depicted using models, pictures, words and exhibits including His Majesty's gold crown, Golden Hands (which are depicted on the Royal state crest), the symbolic Golden Cats, his silver kris, costume and orchestral instruments used during the ceremony. Film footage of the magnificent ceremony is screened in a small theatrette. The displays, which include historic pictures of His Majesty meeting his people afterwards in the mosque and in the districts, also cover independence and His Majesty's return from the Haj.

The museum is open to the general public and entrance is free.
Visiting hours:
Saturday to Thursday: 8:30am - 5pm
Friday: 9am - 11:30am & 2:30pm - 5pm

Kampong Ayer

This sprawling "Water Village" built on stilts over the Brunei River, has over 30,000 inhabitants and although such fishing villages are relatively common along the coast of Borneo and Malaysia, there is nothing that comes close to the vast scale or history of Kampong Ayer.

The stilted city, which was described by early European travellers as the 'Venice of the East', is actually a collection of small kampongs each with their own names and their own Government-appointed leaders, or "ketua kampong" . The myriad homes, which have piped water and electricity and are bedecked by a forest of TV aerials, are interconnected by a maze of wooden walkways along which it is possible to walk from one end of the village to the other. This amazing community is almost self-contained. It has shops, mosques, schools, a police station, fire station and medical clinics.

Water Taxis

Kampong Ayer is equally famous for the armada of water taxis which speed around the village transporting people and goods.

Hiring a boat and driver is very easy and costs around B$10 - 15 for half an hour or so. Just appear at the top of the steps across from the Yayasan complex and there will soon be someone there touting for your business.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

The glistening heart of the capital and symbol of the country's deeply-rooted Islamic faith is the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It was the brainchild of the father of the present Sultan, Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien, who was ruler when the building was completed in 1958.

The mosque is one of the most impressive in Southeast Asia. Italian marble was used for the floors and Shanghai granite for the outer walls. The chandeliers and stained glass windows came from Britain while the carpets were imported from Saudi Arabia and Belgium. The glistening gold dome is made up of 3.3 million pieces of Venetian mosaic covering 520 square metres . On three sides the mosque is surrounded by a lagoon, at the centre of which is a replica of a 16th-century Royal barge (Mahligai) used occasionally for religious ceremonies such as the annual Quran reading competition.

Visitors may enter the mosque but are asked to remove their shoes before entering and to exercise due consideration for people praying. Women are should cover their heads and dress conservatively.

Visiting Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 8am to 12noon, 2pm to 3pm & 5pm to 6pm

The mosque is closed to non-Muslims on Thursdays. It is opened on Saturday provided that there is no official function the following day.