The Muslim population of Brunei celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri Festival (Eid) to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of daily fasting. This is the most important traditional festival of the year in Brunei, comparable to New Year celebrations in many other countries, and lasts for 4 days.
The first day of the festival is dedicated to the reunion of families. On that day, nobody goes out, but families gather to talk, eat and drink together. The second day, called ‘opening day’, begins the period when family members visit relatives and friends, continuing through the fourth day of the festival. During the festival, Brunei people invite relatives and friends to their houses to share and enjoy delicious traditional dishes.
On the Hari Raya Aidilfitri Festival, the Istana Nurul Iman Palace opens its doors for 2 days. The first day is to welcome members of the government, while on the second day, the king and members of the royal family welcome their officials and citizens. Brunei people dress in their finest to go to the palace. Everyone wants to meet the members of the royal family, as it is considered to bring luck to their households. According to custom, the king and the princes welcome male visitors, and the queen and the princesses welcome females. Each person going to the palace is given a bar of chocolate with the royal seal. Children are given BND5 as lucky money.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri Festival is the only occasion when people are permitted to visit Istana Nurul Iman, billed as the world’s biggest palace, with 1,788 rooms. Tourists can join Brunei citizens to visit the palace and receive the gifts from the royal family on this occasion, as well as enjoy a royal buffet meal in the palace. It is a fascinating experience because, in contrast to many places in the world where common citizens and royalty are kept at a distance, it seems there is not a big gap between the royals and citizens in this tiny monarchy.