Tourists, students overwhelmed by His Majesty's grace
By Zasika Musdi

The majestic Istana Nurul Iman opened its doors to the public for the second day of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration yesterday attracting 34,000 people

Thousands of golden citizens, adults, teenagers and children of all races and religions could be seen in the waiting area of the palace as they patiently made their way towards the royal reception area.

Also not missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity were tourists, international students and expatriates, some of whom even made the extra effort to come dressed in the traditional 'baju kurung' to show their enthusiasm for the joyous occasion as they shared their experience and comparisons with their home country.

Sailors Christine and Ian Grimmett from Brisbane, Australia sailed into Brunei Darussalam three weeks ago, and heard about the Hari Raya open house at the Nurul Iman palace from the staff at the Serasa Yacht Club.

They invited their friends Bernard Grossniklaus from Switzerland and Piyaporn Chatachariyakul from Phuket, Thailand, who sailed into the country yesterday, to join them to experience a taste of unique Bruneian Hari Raya royalty culture, which has gone on for years.

"I think it's a fantastic and unique experience to be here, and it just so happens that it's Christine's birthday today and we're celebrating it by sharing a moment with the royal family," said Ian. "I feel very lucky," said Christine. "It's not everyday that you get a chance like this on your birthday."

It was also a first time experience for some 40 international students currently studying at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, who were accompanied by the officer-in-charge Hjh Rosinah bte Hj Salleh from the International Students Welfare.

Tinhtoo from the Union of Myanmar, who is taking his Masters of Public Policy in UBD and came dressed in his country's national costume, said he was very happy about meeting His Majesty and the royal family.

"The Sultan is very kind and when he smiles as I shakes his hand that is the best moment for me," he said. Sharing his enthusiasm was his colleague Md Moynul Ahsan from Bangladesh, also dressed in his country's national costume, who said that it was a nice feeling to be a part of the crowd and to meet the royal family.

"We don't get the same privilege in Bangladesh during the Aidilfitri celebration, and I feel very lucky to celebrate such a nice day by meeting the royal family, and to experience it the Bruneian way," he said.

Emily Olabymugi from Nigeria, taking her PhD in Business Administration at UBD, said it was a great opportunity to be at the palace to celebrate Hari Raya with Her Majesty and the princesses. She was impressed with the reception and the handling of the crowd. She said that such an opportunity is not as 'central' in Nigeria due to the different tribes and royalties. "We have many regions and tribes in Nigeria, so it means that we have many royal families, and meeting them is not as central as what you'd get here in Brunei Darussalam. So this makes Brunei a very wonderful and unique place and I really enjoyed myself," she said.

Mizuho from Japan, taking Masters of Banking and Finance at UBD, said she expected to just shake hands with Her Majesty and the princesses, but instead received more. "Her Majesty asked me where I was from and showed an interest in me, and that made me very happy to be able to talk to her. I really appreciate it because they have given me this chance to be here." When asked if she would get the same opportunity back in her home country, she said, "In Japan, on New Years Day, we were given the chance to see the emperor but only from outside the building, and not as close as this."

Present at the second day of Istana Nurul Iman open house were His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, HRH Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and the Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Prince Abdul Malik, HRH Prince Abdul Mateen, and other members of the royal family.

In a separate venue, also saw thousands of female guests having the opportunity to extend their Hari Raya greetings to Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and HRH Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar.

Also in attendance were HRH Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah, HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, and HRH Princess Hjh Masna, HRH Princess Hjh Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess 'Azemah Ni'matul Bolkiah and other members of the royal family. - Borneo Bulletin (5th Oct 2008)