Brunei Darussalam is a tiny oil-rich sultanate in Southeast Asia. It is popular for its golden domes, towers and structures, as well as the sultan’s palace, which is the largest palace in the world. Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, on the other hand, is Brunei’s largest mosque and clearly an important tourist and religious attraction.
Built in 1994 to commemorate the sultan’s 25th anniversary as Brunei’s Supreme Leader, the splendor of this golden mosque reminds people of India’s great Taj Mahal. Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is very distinct with its sea-blue roof, intricately designed minarets, sparkling fountains and shimmering golden domes that are visible from several parts of the city. This huge brainchild project of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulag is rightfully considered one of the grandest monuments to Islam. Construction began in 1988 but was officially opened on July 14, 1994 to commemorate the sultan’s Silver Anniversary.
The mosque is known locally as Kiarong Mosque because it is located in Kampong Kiarong, a few kilometers from the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Bandar Seri Begawan is home to a number of national landmarks and clearly this mosque is one of the grandest. Another important mosque is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque located at the heart of the capital city. These two ornate, golden places for Muslim worship are often compared to each other. Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is much bigger and more spectacular but Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque hosts more significant national, religious and cultural events.
Religion plays an important part in the history, culture and tourism of the country, and this is why two of the most celebrated buildings are not malls, business centers or skyscrapers but places of worship. Brunei’s history is all about the rule of sultans and the Islam faith for the last 600 years, and that is not about to change any time soon.
Non-Muslim visitors are allowed to enter Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque along with Muslim worshippers and devotees. Tourists will be asked to remove their shoes and show respect to people praying by maintaining the peace and quiet. Women are also requested to cover their heads (as Muslim women do) and dress modestly. Keeping the quiet and maintaining reverent behavior are a small price to pay as one enters this magnificent place of worship. It is definitely a must-see, especially for Western travelers who are visiting a Muslim nation for the first time.
Even local worshippers who come to this mosque regularly are still stunned at the beauty and sacredness of the place. Inside are meticulously shaped artworks that clearly represent the Islam religion and outside are pleasant gardens, fountains and towers that create an atmosphere of pure serenity and sacredness. The ornamented towers are very visible from the main road. Also, the mosque’s glimmering gold domes cannot escape the eyes of every by-passer.
Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, definitely one of the most important attractions in Brunei, is open from Sunday to Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and then again from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter on Thursday, which is the most important day of Muslim prayers and worship.