Reflecting upon a reflection in Bandar Seri Begawan
Right now I am back in the Sabah region of Borneo after spending a few days in the small Sultanate nation of Brunei, and its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. It was my first visit to the country and I have to say I really enjoyed it, especially Kampong Ayer – the ‘village in the water’ – near where I was staying. I’ll write more about this special water village in a separate post, but for now I wanted to share a moment from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque on the last night of my trip.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is often considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific. Its main dome is entirely covered in gold, and the mosque is a place of worship for the Muslim community of the city. It’s absolutely stunning – both during the day when the sky is reflected in the lagoon, and at night when its towers are gently lit.
Islam is Brunei’s official religion, with 67 percent of the population being Muslim. I have spent a lot of time in Islamic countries over the years, particularly Indonesia which is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Brunei is perhaps the safest and most peaceful country I have ever been in, yet for many people simply mentioning the word Islam conjures up fear, largely in part to the scaremongering of the media in recent years. Not all Muslims are terrorists, in the same way not all Catholics were in the IRA.
As a visitor to Brunei, I visited Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque for reasons different to those of the local community. I didn’t go there to pray. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate the serenity of the scene in front of me. If taken out of religious context, and seen purely from a design/visual/sensory perspective, places like this are definitely worth experiencing. As I sat and listened to the call to prayer, the sun set before me and the mosque flickered in the water below.
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