Mega-Mosques of Brunei Darussalam, SE Asia


Photographing people in their environment is my passion.  Often their environment includes their houses & other buildings.  Anyone visiting Brunei Darussalam cannot help but looking at the two grand, even mega-mosques in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan.  They’re two of SE Asia’s most impressive buildings of any kind, & definitely the region's most impressive places of worship.

The largest & most expensive of the two mosques is named after the current sultan of Brunei—the Jame ‘Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, or the Kiarong Mosque for short, based on the neighborhood where it was completed in 1992.  It’s obviously an amazing structure.  Unfortunately for photographers, there’s so many trees & other “stuff” around it, that it’s hard to get a really compelling view of it—except perhaps from the air.  I suggest getting up close to the mosque at night.


Going further into the center of the city you’ll find the really stunning Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.  It’s named after the current sultan’s father—who was the 28th sultan of Brunei, & who completed it in 1958.  Unlike it’s more modern & expensive partner a few kilometers away, this mega-mosque is set in pristine grounds that allow expansive views from many directions.  There’s a reflecting pool with a cement construct of an ancient royal yacht, and the gold-covered kuba’ or dome towers 52 meters high.


I recall my father seeing Borobudur in Java & his comment on how much some leaders will spend on their places of worship while surrounded by people who are obviously very poor.  I was surprised to see a bit of that challenge here too, as some pretty run-down houses stand almost in the shadow of this place of worship.


It’s best to view the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque around sunset as worshipers gather for evening prayers.


The mosque functions as the community center of activity in most Muslim societies.  These mosques also have become national & cultural icons.  

After watching the sunset play a lightshow on the mosque's dome, be sure to hang around long enough to see faithful Malay Muslims coming out of their worship, while others stay to study & to teach their children.