The town centre of Bandar Seri Begawan is the “Bandar”. It’s an ancient port, with history tracing back to the Age of Discovery. “Seri Begawan” is a royal title to the sultan (BTW the titles of the sultans and queens can be as long as more than 15 words in English!), so the name of the capital can be roughly translated as “Sultan’s Port”. Nowadays Bandar is a centre of tourism interests in Brunei.
The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is probably the most famous building to the world in Brunei.
This mosque is dedicated to the previous Sultan (father to the current Sultan), and “Omar Ali Saifuddin” is his brief name. The architecture style is a mimic of the Taj Mahal, with the main architect and all the white marbles from Italy. It cost more than 60 million Brunei dollars and was finished in 1958. The Bruneians normally called it “Omar”. This year is the 50th anniversary of this mosque, so there are some celebrations within the country. They even re-do the golden plates on all the domes to make it more “shiny”. Unfortunately they did not refresh the water in the pond surrounding the mosque… (The water looks quite dirty now, not like those photos taken for the postcards.)
But the pond is the major characteristic of this mosque, with a stone boat inside. The mosque, the pond, the stone boat and the bridges consist of a unique landmark for Brunei.
The mosque is open to public during the daytime (except for the praying sessions). Ladies need to wear the black robes provided by the mosque, so do the gentlemen who wear shorts. So actually you don’t have to wear long sleeves and pants all the day round in Brunei (Although moderate clothing is preferred. Sexy beach babes are not welcomed here.), but during the rainy season (like now!) they ARE quite useful, esp. during nights.
The interior of a mosque is actually quite similar to a Baroque style church: Dome, colored glass windows, the seat for the Imam (priest in Islam) on the top of several steps of stairs… Just here you don’t have any seat for the prayers – everybody kneels down and sits on the carpets (those carpets are protected from touching of the visitors). Since photo-taking is not allowed inside the mosque, I just took a photo for the garden.
Also got some night views for Omar (that’s why I brought tripod this time…):