BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Sweltering heat did not deter more than 110,000 people from attending the royal family’s annual Hari Raya meet and greet, when the palace is open to the public for three days for Aidilfitri.
In what has become an annual tradition, His Majesty the Sultan and Her Majesty the Raja Isteri welcomed people from all walks of life into the palace to celebrate the Eid festival, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan.
According to state broadcaster Radio Televisyen Brunei, a total of 110,828 people descended upon the Istana this year — that’s one in every four people in Brunei.
Tourists and visiting officials also attended the palace event for a chance to exchange handshakes with the royal family. This year, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, made a trip to the Istana to greet His Majesty, as part of a goodwill visit to Brunei.
Ryan, a 34-year-old Australian tourist, said he was in Brunei to visit friends and many people urged him to go to the Hari Raya “open house” at the Istana:
As a token of appreciation, visitors were also given embossed yellow boxes containing traditional Hari Raya cakes.
Guests were also treated to a wide selection of delicacies ranging from beef rendang and lemang to roast lamb and traditional Hari Raya cakes, all organised in a large buffet by the palace kitchen staff.
Security and medical personnel also worked hard behind the scenes to ensure the Hari Raya celebrations at Istana Nurul Iman run smoothly.
Some 80 support staff from Emergency and Medical Ambulance Services (EMAS) were on hand in case of emergencies and to provide assistance to visitors with mobility issues.
Some of the common ailments they see — such as headaches, heat stress and fainting — can be attributed to low blood sugar and patients missing their medication.
Spending the first few days of the festive season away from loved ones is never easy, said one paramedic, Ak Laila Halip Pg Mohd Shamin.
While most people in Brunei will be spend the long weekend celebrating Hari Raya with family and friends, the people working at the palace will be on duty round the clock.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure the well-being of the visitors here,” said Ak Laila. “We’re also happy to be able to celebrate Raya with the royal family members, colleagues and the public”.