Thousands greet, convey Raya wishes to royalty
Rokiah Mahmud, Achong Tanjong & Aziz Idris

Thousands of well-wishers from all walks of life experienced an unique opportunity to convey Hari Raya greetings to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and other members of the royal family on the first day of open house at the Istana Nurul Iman, yesterday.

Visitors are in for a treat this year as the public dining area of the Istana Nurul Iman has been recently renovated and it's now fully air-conditioned for their comfort and safety.

The well-wishers also included uniformed personnel, senior citizens and foreign tourists who are visiting the country in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration and took the opportunity to visit the Istana.

Accompanying His Majesty to receive greetings from well-wishers at Baitur Rahmah Hall were HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah, His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik, His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Mateen, HRH Prince 'Abdul Wakeel and other members of the royal family.

Meanwhile, receiving the female well-wishers in the adjacent room with Her Majesty were Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah, Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, YAM Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah, HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Hafizah Sururul Bolkiah, HRH Princess 'Azemah Ni'matul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah and other members of the royal family.

Similar to previous years, a shuttle bus service was provided to transport the visitors to the Istana. Police and health personnel were stationed at the Istana to conduct security and screening checks.

A total of 26,278 well-wishers were recorded in the morning and another 13,170 visitors were recorded in the afternoon on the first day of the Istana open house.

After passing these checkpoints, visitors would follow a pathway to collect coupons for the customary Hari Raya boxes, which can only be collected while exiting.

The newly renovated public dining hall was abuzz with conversation and laughter and was complemented with Hari Raya songs and melodies in the background that further enlivened the warmth and joy of the glorious occasion.

Well-wishers are advised to follow instructions by officers and staff from the Istana to avoid any disappointment while waiting in the queue. It is estimated that the waiting time is between 30 and 45 minutes.

The Istana open house will continue today and conclude tomorrow (August 23) for the public. It is open from 10am to 12noon for the morning session and 2pm to 4pm in the afternoon.

The Istana open house is considered the best time for the public to get closer, shake hands and extend their Raya greetings to the beloved ruler, Her Majesty and other members of the royal family. - Borneo Bulletin (22 August 2012)