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Cultural Traces Around the World

Brunei: The Abode of Peace

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Brunei is located on the northwestern side of the tropical island of Borneo. The island is also home to parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. The national flag features an image of two hands, representing the benevolent hands of the government and its promise to provide welfare, peace, and prosperity to the people, as well as the national motto (in Arabic): “Render service unto God’s Guidance.”

The people of Brunei enjoy a diverse culture owing to the country’s unique history, which includes thousands of years of cultural, political, and economic exchanges with India and China, and its recent connections with the United Kingdom. As many citizens of Brunei are ethnic Malays, the nation enjoys strong cultural ties with Malaysia. Islam, the national religion, strongly influences the culture and lifestyle of Brunei’s Muslims, who make up about 80% of the population. The sense of community is extremely valued in the Bruneian culture. The term “gotong-royong,” which literally means “working together,” conveys the spirit in which people should function in unity for the common good.

Brunei’s traditional and popular attire is influenced by Islam. For over 500 years, Brunei is renowned for its metalwork, especially silverwork, and the high-quality crafts produced by its artisans. Traditional woven textiles, known locally as “kaintenunan Brunei,” have played an important role among both royalty and ordinary people for centuries; for example, they’re given by the groom to his bride in their wedding ceremony. Basket making, called “menganyam,” is another traditional handicraft. Bamboo, rattan (climbing palms) and the leaves of other plants are woven into a wide variety of baskets and items for daily use. The nation’s Islamic roots also play a prominent role in music and dance. Common traditional instruments include gongs and coconut shells, which are used for percussion.

Many tourists also visit the Kampong Ayer settlement, the historic capital of the Bruneian Empire, which is sometimes known as the “Venice of the East.” With its amazing tropical rainforests, noble people, magnificent Islamic architecture, and flouring traditional arts, Brunei will impress any traveler.

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