Massive turnout for Istana Open House
Azlan Othman

A TOTAL of 105,786 well-wishers thronged the Istana Nurul Iman for the three-day Open House held in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidlfitri this year.

The massive turnout coincided with the three days of public holidays set aside for Hari Raya Aidilfitri as announced last year.

A total of 14,391 visitors were recorded yesterday morning and another 16,060 in the afternoon, the last day the palace was open to the public.

It was a spectacular scene with many families turning up in bright, colourful Baju Raya which added glitter to the occasion.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam greeted the male well-wishers, while Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha exchanged greetings with female well-wishers.

Accompanying His Majesty were HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office; HRH Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, HRH Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah, HRH Prince Haji ‘Abdul ‘Azim, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Mateen, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel and other members of the royal family.

Her Majesty was accompanied by HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Norhayati, Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Muta-Wakkilah Hayatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Masna, HRH Princess Hajah Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam and HRH Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Noorehsani.

A steady stream of people was ferried to the palace in shuttle buses. Tourists and foreign nationals based in the country joined the locals in making a beeline for the palace. But the wait was well worth it as they were treated to various kinds of food, which included Hari Raya specialties. The lavish spread included cheese chicken sausage, spaghetti marinara, chicken nugget, prawn kalio, mutton kandar, spice roast chicken, beef rendang minang and bihari biryani rice.

One of the well-wishers, a Sarawakian who identified himself as Eric, was awestruck by the revamped compound of Istana Nurul Iman where two giant screens featured Hari Raya tunes to entertain the crowds.

“It was my second visit to the palace,” he said, adding that he was pleased and excited to be able to greet His Majesty. “Although I had to wait for two to three hours, it’s worth the wait.”

Another well-wisher, Nancy, who is originally from England but now lives in Australia, is in transit in Brunei Darussalam for five days. She said, “it (visit to the Istana) is an absolutely wonderful experience. We read in a local paper about this occasion and it’s amazing. Everyone is very friendly and very happy”.

Special needs people were among those who attended the Open House held from 10am to 12noon and from 2pm to 4pm.

A senior citizen who uses a wheelchair, Hj Maidi from Belait, went to the Istana with his big family. He considered himself to be fortunate to be able to come to the palace.

The children also received the customary Duit Raya, and cake too! - Borneo Bulletin (13 August 2013)