Istana Nurul Iman open day attracts visitors from near and far
Rokiah Mahmud, Achong Tanjong & Aziz Idris

Istana Nurul Iman has once again opened its doors to members of the public for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, giving the people an opportunity to meet and greet 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.

Among thousands who attended the palace's first open day were strong-willed and high spirited senior citizens, including Dayang Hjh Minah binti Pengarah Hj Basi from Kampong Setia.

The 77-year-old senior citizen, who was helped by paramedics inside the palace, smiled all the way and could not contain her excitement to meet the royals.

"Although I have to be assisted by paramedics and am suffering from knee illness, it is not a hindrance for me to come to the palace every year during Hari Raya open day," she said, who along with her daughter, expressed her happiness after shaking hands with Her Majesty the Raja Isteri.

For some, visiting Istana Nurul Iman during the Hari Raya open day is a must, with many of them making it part of their annual agenda. Besides meeting the beloved benevolent monarch and other members of the royal family, the event also serves as an opportunity for them to convey their gratitude for the peace, prosperity and development that have been provided by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in looking after the well-being of the nation.

Siti Mariam binti Mat, from Kampong Saba 'A', took the opportunity to bring her relatives all the way from Sibu, Sarawak to join the festive occasion at Istana Nurul Iman. In an interview with the Borneo Bulletin, John T T Lee from Taiwan said that "I am quite amazed, looking at all the people coming from near and far just to greet His Majesty. This is my first experience visiting the Istana, and I like it very much. I seldom to see this kind of occasion where the ruler personally invites his people to the palace and shakes hands with them."

Donning a navy blue traditional Malay costume was a couple hailing from Canada, Shawn and Suzanne Goodfellow, who told the Borneo Bulletin that their experience of meeting a living monarch was an "unforgettable memory".

"It was such a beautiful occasion," described Shawn, who currently resides in Malaysia but often travels to Brunei for business. "We have a Malay friend from Brunei who told us about the palace's open day. So we took the opportunity to take leave from work and travel to Brunei to wish His Majesty Selamat Hari Raya personally."

Two transit tourists, Ellen Keerd from Tallinn, Estonia and Renee Ross from Pennsylvania, USA, found out about the royal 'open house' from an in-flight magazine when travelling from Singapore to Brunei yesterday morning.

"Once we landed, we straight away took a short taxi ride to the palace. We were so excited to meet the members of the royal family and this is definitely the highlight of our trip to Southeast Asia," said the tourists.

The annual Istana Nurul Iman open house event is much anticipated by all who come dressed in their best, fancy and colourful attire regardless of their age, status or background. - Borneo Bulletin (22 August 2012)