THERE are three days in every calendar year that Bruneians and visitors await with abated breath. And if you’re a guest in-the-know to the Sultanate, you would mark the date, too. This is the day when the ornate palace doors of the Istana Nurul Iman are open wide in true Bruneian royalty, style, grace and hospitality to welcome everyone.
That day is during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, the Muslim festival that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadhan. It is also when His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and the Royal Family host their official Hari Raya open house to celebrate and share the day’s festivities with the nation.
Whether you’re young or old, a local or a visitor, the day when ordinary citizens are allowed to enter the palace grounds, let alone its majestic halls, is a day to be remembered. Not only will you be able to see what’s beyond the palace walls – its vast grounds and well-manicured gardens – but also walk the opulent halls that is the home and official residence of His Majesty.
But it’s not just the intricate chandeliers or the exotic floral arrangements nor the incredibly lavish buffet spread that will be forever etched in your mind. Rather, it’s the chance to personally meet with His Majesty and the Royal Family who are there to meet and greet everyone.
The open house tradition is practised in the Sultanate and neighbouring Malaysia. It is a tradition that welcomes everyone in the community, often to mark a festivity, without any formal invitation.
What’s unique of the Istana Nurul Iman open house is that no other head of state – anywhere in the world – readily opens the doors to the official residence to celebrate the community for three straight days. Not only that, but it is estimated that in past open houses, His Majesty and the Royal Family were on their feet for over five hours in which each proffered handshake is graciously accepted.
By the conclusion of the Istana open house, His Majesty and the Royal Family would have personally greeted over 100,000 well-wishers!
The palace open house is a magical occasion. Visitors come from near and far, where everyone is eager and overjoyed to be able to meet in person and greet His Majesty and the Royal Family – the men greets His Majesty and the male members of the Royal Family, and the women greets Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and female members of the Royal Family.
The royal open house is a sight to behold, which sees the Royal Family and other members of the royal family gathered under one roof to celebrate the occasion together with all visitors and well-wishers. And, His Majesty knows the importance of this only too well.
Everything runs like clockwork, right down to the minute details. In planning for the three-day open house, His Majesty takes special care to ensure the thousands that make a beeline to the palace are welcomed with warmth and hospitality.
The buffet spread reflects a menu that has something for everyone, the palace is dressed in welcoming display bouquets while all around, help staff are available to ensure the weak or invalid continue to remain comfortable during the long wait and queue to proffer their Hari Raya well wishes to Their Majesties.
Indeed, the Hari Raya open house at Istana Nurul Iman is unique in its preparation and occasion. For His Majesty in particular, the open house is beyond the opportunity to meet the rakyat and exchange Hari Raya greetings. It is an occasion for His Majesty and the Royal Family to honour and fete his subjects on this very special day and extend his personal greetings to his people.
The Brunei Times/Courtesy of Muhibah
Sun, 6 July 2014