Negara Brunei Darussalam, or the Abode of Peace, is one of the world's richest countries, and Bandar Seri Begawan is its glorious capital. It is small, neat, and rich. With only 60,000 inhabitants who are all well educated, healthy, and presumably happy, the city is considered one of Asia's best to live in.
Bandar Seri Begawan is the main port and commercial centre of the sultanate of Brunei on the island of Borneo. The historical roots of the city go far back. In the 7th century, a small water village, built on stilts in the Brunei river, Sungai Brunei, started to grow. By the 16th century it was a settlement of considerable size and power in the region, which controlled all of Borneo and large parts of the Philippines.
The drier part of the city was built in the beginning of the 20th century on land claimed from the river. The Sultan moved his residence onto dry land in 1909. Brunei Town, as it was known then, became capital in 1920, the same year it was declared a municipal area. Despite attempts to move the entire population onto this reclaimed land, a
village still exists on the river. Kampong Ayer is a whole modern community built upon water, extending from both banks of the river. About 30,000 people live in this Venice of the East.
The beautiful, but impossibly long name of Bandar Seri Begawan is commonly shortened to 'Bandar' or 'BSB'. The name is Malay and means something like Town of His Highness Sultan Begawan. Begawan was one of many names of the 28th sultan who was the architect of modern Brunei. The sultan died in 1967, and the name was changed in 1970 in his honour.
Today's Brunei is a country with little power, but much wealth, because of large oil resources. Bandar's glory is founded on this black gold. This money has paid for several lavish buildings, such as the
Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque with a dome of gold, walls of marble, standing by its very own artificial lagoon. It also gave the sultan of Brunei his palace, the Istana Nurul Iman.