The tiny nation of Brunei is ruled by the world’s oldest continuous monarchy. The current Sultan of Brunei descends from a royal lineage that began in 1405, with the first Sultan of Brunei. The Sultan is one of the world’s richest people, and his country enjoys a high standard of living.
The environment has benefited from the country’s affluence as well. With no need for logging revenue, its dense rainforests have survived unscathed, and Brunei’s well-fed populace had no need to hunt for food, so native wildlife flourishes. Ostentatious Islamic architecture dominates the skyline of Bandar Seri Gegawan, Brunei’s capital. Here the gold domes of the Sultan Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and the Sultan’s home at Isatna Nurul Iman, stand as living testament to the country’s wealth. The Isatna Nurul Iman is the world’s largest residential palace. On the periphery of the capital lies the village of Kampong Ayer, a conglomeration of homes built on stilts. 30,000 people live here in the world’s largest water villages, their houses linked by walkways between structures that perch above a broad, lake sized area of the Brunei River. At the Brunei museum, a vast collection of Islamic art encompasses works from Brunei, Borneo and the Philippines.