Brunei is an oil-rich country in Southeast Asia. The common tourists may not have heard about this tiny Muslim sultanate since it is overshadowed by the popularity of neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Those who know Muslim destinations, exotic cultures and exciting dive spots, however, are likely to have visited or at least heard good things about Brunei. Culture and festivals in Brunei are so rich and diverse; it is no surprise that more and more vacationers are considering this sultanate as a place to visit.
Bruneians are Malay in race and Muslim in religion. Citizens come from Malay, Chinese and Indian descent. And while Islam is the official state religion, other religious beliefs and inclinations are practiced, honored and allowed by the constitution. This religious openness and acceptance is apparent in Brunei’s national festivals.
Clearly the most important event in the country is the Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a Muslim festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. The Ramadan is a month-long fast that begins with prayer offerings inside the mosques. Hari Raya Aidilfitri, on the other hand, begins with the cooking of delicious foods such as marinated beef, chicken skewer and rice cakes. These are the best and most delicious foods in Brunei. Another highlight of this event is when the sultan opens his grandiose palace so that both citizens and tourists can meet the royal family. This happens only once a year. The royal family invites the people to greet them a happy Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Two other major events are political in nature: the sultan’s birthday on July 15 and the Armed Forces Day on May 31. The sultan’s birthday is celebrated every year inside the stunning Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque where the royal leader delivers a speech. The mosque is located at the very heart of the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. The celebration runs for two weeks with lively parades, processions and fireworks.
The Armed Forces Day also takes place at the same mosque. It is a one-day celebration with parades, demonstrations and parachute shows to commemorate the founding of the Royal Brunei Army.
As proof of the diversity and religious freedom in Brunei, the two other major festivals are the Chinese New Year and Christmas Day. The Chinese New Year begins at the eve of the Lunar Year and is celebrated for two whole weeks with merrymaking by the Chinese community. Christmas Day is, of course celebrated on December 25 with the rest of the world, and is celebrated by Muslims and Christians alike.
Other special events in the country are National Day on February 23, Teacher’s Day on September 23, Public Service Day on September 29, Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and Hari Raya Aidiladha, a historic Muslim festivals in which goats and cows are offered as sacrifices.
The diversity and wealth of culture and festivals in Brunei provides tons of reasons for foreign travelers to come visit. Other than for its enchanting wonders of nature, Brunei’s national events and festivities are also quite a tourism draw. Brunei is fun, unique, exotic, happening, intriguing, wealthy and new, and these are important characteristics that make people want to visit a foreign land.