One of the most beautiful, grandiose and heavenly places on earth, not just in Brunei, is the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Religious structures are supposed to promote reverence in order to set a tone of worship, and that is exactly what this mosque does. Located in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is definitely a major landmark in the country.
What makes this mosque a cut above the rest? Consider these three amazing features. First, the mosque is constructed in a man-made lagoon at Kampong Ayer along the banks Brunei River. This is important because of the cultural significance of Kampong Ayer.
Kampong Ayer is a traditional community that is over 1,000 years old. Literally translated as “Water Village”, Kampong Ayer is composed of thousands and thousands of houses-on-stilts that stretch to about 8 kilometers long. This national heritage and leading tourist attraction has its own schools, restaurants, police station, mosques and a hospital, and all are on stilts. Add to this amazing cultural site the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. The mosque and Kampong Ayer are connected by a bridge across the river.
Second, the mosque is a major architectural accomplishment. It put together Mughal and Italian architectural styles. Mughal architecture is a distinct style in Persia, Turkey and India from the 16th to 18th centuries. The most famous product of Mughal architecture is the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
The 52-meter tall Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is surrounded by golden domes, marble towers, lush gardens, courtyards, and sparkling fountains. There is a large number of trees and flowers to symbolize heaven. There is a marble bridge that serves more as a symbol of the coming down of the Quran to earth than as an actual bridge to be trod upon. The marble bridge was constructed in 1967 and it is here where Quran-reading competitions are normally held.
Inside are beautiful arches, marble columns and semi-domes that turn more magical as light passes through the stained glass windows. The mosque’s architectural crown, however, is the main dome that is made from pure gold. The glimmering dome and the main tower may be seen from different parts of the country.
Most of the materials used on the mosque were imported: granite from China, marble from Italy, chandeliers from England and carpets from Saudi Arabia. The mosque was designed by the well-known Italian architect, Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli and his plans were carried out by chartered architects. It was completed in 1958 during the reign of Omar Ali Saifuddien III.
Third, the mosque represents and is the namesake of an important figure in Brunei’s colorful history. Omar Ali Saifuddien is the 28th sultan of Brunei who ruled the country from 1950 to 1964, after he volunteered to give up the crown in favor of his son, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. Omar Ali Saifuddien is known as the Architect of Modern Brunei, Royal Poet, and the country’s Father of Independence. This brave leader accomplished major developments that marked the country’s modern history. Some of his accomplishments were the creation of the constitution, formation of the Royal Brunei Army, promotion of education, health services, agriculture, infrastructure, electricity and water through a national development plan that amounted to $100,000,000, and a firm decision not to join Malaysia. The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque represents the man who fought to achieve Brunei’s independence even after he abdicated his throne.