Vecera na otvorenoj pijaci-Dinner in the open market

Vecera na otvorenoj pijaci-Dinner in the open market

Umetnicka vizija sultanovog brata-The Sultan's brother artistic vision

Umetnicka vizija sultanovog brata-The Sultan’s brother artistic vision

Sultanova palata Istana-Sultan's Istana Palace

Sultanova palata Istana-Sultan’s Istana Palace

Saifudin dzamija u belom mermeru-The Saifuddin Mosque in white marble

Saifudin dzamija u belom mermeru-The Saifuddin Mosque in white marble

Sa brunejskim djacima-With Brunei pupils

Sa brunejskim djacima-With Brunei pupils

Minaret dzamije Kiarong-The minaret of the Kiarong Mosque

Minaret dzamije Kiarong-The minaret of the Kiarong Mosque

Na reci Brunei-On the Brunei River

Na reci Brunei-On the Brunei River

Naselje na vodi-A settlement on the water

Naselje na vodi-A settlement on the water

Palata-The Istana Nurul Iman Palace

Palata-The Istana Nurul Iman Palace

Pijaca u BSB-u-A market in Bandar Seri Bergawan

Pijaca u BSB-u-A market in Bandar Seri Bergawan

Luksuzan hotel nadomak glavnog grada-A luxury hotel close to the capital

Luksuzan hotel nadomak glavnog grada-A luxury hotel close to the capital

Ova državica je mali i prebogati sultanat “na kraju sveta”, na jednom deliću ogromnog ostrva Borneo, koje dele tri zemlje: Indonezija, Malezija i Brunei. Najveći je  indonežanski deo koji se zove Kalimantan, dok su delovi Malezije, Sabah i Saravak, nekada bili deo velikog Sultanata Brunei. Odavno, pre više od jednog i pô veka, osim sultana, ovde je glavni vladar bio Englez Džejms Bruk, koji je bio toliko moćan da je dobio titulu radže od Saravaka, koja je prvi put pripala jednom belcu. Partner današnjeg sultana Bolkijaha, u vladavini ovom zemljom, jeste naftna kompanija Shell. Tako se na najbolji način odžava ime zemlje Darussalam, što u prevodu znači stanište mira. Iako je poznat po svojoj relativnoj skromnosti, sultan ima samo osam aviona u svom posedu, kao i lični aerodrom, pretežno za potrebe šopinga kraljevske porodice u Londonu. Ogromna palata Istana Nurul Iman, u mermeru i zlatu, otvara se jednom godišnje za radoznale posetioce. Samo se njen dugi pozlaćeni krov pomalja iz gustog tropskog zelenila dok iz čamca posmatram palatu u daljini, kojoj se ne može prići.
Smešten na obalama reke Brunei, glavni grad glomaznog imena Bandar Seri Bergawan, skraćeno BSB, ima svoja dva lica. Jedno je ono prebogato, sa prostranim mermernim trgovima i džamijama neizmerne lepote i modernog dizajna, a drugo je ono jednostavno, na reci, najveće naselje na vodi, koje se naziva Kampong Ayer.  Nizovi drvenih sojenica povezani brojnim prelazima i mostićima, imaju mnogo svojih dokova i škola, male džamije, policijske i vatrogasne brodove. Ova Uneskova baština potiče još iz X veka kao mala ribarska naseobina, a jedan mletački učenjak i Magelanov biograf nazvao je Venecijom Istoka. Šume mangrovog drveta, u kojima se račvaju rukavci velike reke Brunei, nalaze se na obodu grada, a u njihovim krošnjama može se videti posebna vrsta dugonosih Proboscis majmuna.
Pomalo konspirativno, jedan pristojan mladić nudi noćni obilazak grada. Nalazimo se ispred najveće i najlepše džamije Kiarong, a zatim nekoliko sati uživamo u njegovoj priči o ovoj zemlji, o kojoj se tako malo zna. U svom luksuznom džipu vozi nas kroz grad i objašnjava da zbog visokog standarda svi stanovnici uživaju u povoljnim kreditima koje im je sultan omogućio. Razumeo sam da on ovaj posao ne radi za novac, već iz želje da upozna strance i sazna nešto više o nekom drugom svetu. Ipak, najveća mu je želja da svoj svet predstavi drugima i zato s ponosom priča o svom sultanu i njegovoj porodici dok spolja obilazimo palatu, a potom džamije koje svojim osvetljenjem kao da pripadaju prizorima iz ”Hiljadu i jedne noći”. Ova prijatna tura završava se posetom noćnoj pijaci i večerom na tropskom pljusku pod pijačnim šatorima. Sve je veoma egzotično, naročito hrana koja se odlikuje raznolikošću boja, ukusa i mirisa, a šarenilo odeće je prava mešavina Indokine i tradicionalnog Islama. Ovaj mladić je, jednostavno, želeo da bude prijatelj nekim ljudima iz dalekog sveta.
Ipak, ovaj idiličan i bogati sultanat, kao i u svakoj priči, mora imati i neku svoju drugu stranu. U ovoj priči to je sultanov nestašni mlađi brat, koji je svojim neprimerenim životom i pogrešnim ulaganjima, oštetio državnu kasu za samo nekoliko desetina milijardi dolara. Srećom, uz blagi ukor, ovde je to oprostiva i lako nadoknadljiva sitnica.
Ležanje na nafti kao osnovno zanimanje! Samo, dokle?

Januar 2007.
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This statelet is a small and extremely rich Sultanate at the ‘end of the world’, occupying a tiny bit of the island of Borneo, shared by three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The largest part, Kalimantan, belongs to Indonesia, whereas Sabah and Sarawak, in today’s Malaysia, used to belong to the great Sultanate of Brunei. A long time ago, more than 150 years ago, beside the Sultan, the main ruler was an Englishman, James Brooke, who was so powerful that he was awarded the title of the Rajah of Sarawak. This was the first time in history that a white man became a Rajah. Today, Sultan Bolkiah’s main partner in ruling this country is Shell Petroleum. This seems to be the best way to preserve the country’s name Darussalam, meaning Abode of Peace. Even though he is known for his modesty, the Sultan has ‘only’ 8 private jets and an airport, mostly for the Royal family’s shopping trips to London. Enormous palace, Istana Nurul Iman, all marble and gold, opens its gates once a year to the curious visitors. From a boat, I can see the unapproachable palace in the distance, only its elongated golden roof emerging from the lush tropical greenery.
Situated on the banks of river Brunei, the capital city with a tongue-twisting name, Bandar Seri Bergawan, shortened to BSB, has two faces. One is extremely opulent, with vast marble squares and mosques of indescribable beauty and modern design, and the other one is simple, the largest settlement on water, called Kampong Ayer. Rows of stilt houses, connected by many bridges and causeways, have their own piers and schools, little mosques and police and fire fighting boats. This heritage site, protected by UNESCO, dates back to the 10th century’s fishermen’s settlement and was called by a Venetian scholar and Magellan’s biographer – the ‘Venice of the East’. At the edge of the city, the huge Brunei river forks out through mangrove forests, which are home to a peculiar, long nosed monkey – Proboscis.
One decent looking young man offers us, in a somewhat conspiratorial tone, a night tour of the city. We meet him in front of the largest and most beautiful mosque, Kiarong, and then, for a few hours, we enjoy his stories about this, so little known, country. Driving us around in his luxurious jeep, he explains that because of the high living standard in this country, the Sultan has made it possible for all residents to have access to very favourable loans.  I got the impression that he was not doing the guide job because of the money, but rather to meet foreigners and learn something more about the outside world. Yet, his main motive is to present his world to the foreigners and he tells us with pride about the Sultan and his family, while we go around the outside of the palace and then the mosques which bathe in light, reminiscent of scenes from the Arabian Nights. This pleasant tour ends in a visit to the local night market and a dinner in the tropical rain, under the market tents.  Everything feels very exotic, especially the food which is abundant in colour, fragrance and taste and the colourful clothes are a mixture of the traditional Islamic garb and Indochinese style. This young man simply wanted to be friendly with someone from a faraway place.
Yet, this idyllic and affluent Sultanate must have another side to it, like in every other story. In this story, it is the Sultan’s mischievous younger brother, who has cost the royal coffers only several tens of billions of dollars that he spent on his unruly living and botched investments. Luckily for him, even that is regarded as a small, forgivable mistake that deserves only a mild reproach.
Layabout on top of an oil well as a principal profession! But for how long?

January 2007