Monday, June 11, 2007

Brunei princess weds in lavish ceremony

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei - A two-week lavish wedding celebration for the daughter of Brunei's sultan — one of the world's richest men — culminated Sunday in a ceremony steeped in the royal tradition of this tiny, oil-rich nation. Princess Majeedah Nuurul Bulqiah, 31, and Khairul Khalil, 32, exchanged their vows Thursday and were officially presented to the public on Sunday according to Islamic religious rites.
The groom was greeted by the bride's father, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, in the 1,788-room palace's main hall and led to the royal dais where she was seated. The sultan then took Khairul's hand and placed it on the princess' head briefly before seating him next to her.
Cannon shots were fired, and the ceremony, attended by some 2,000 guests, ended with a thanksgiving prayer.
As they left the hall, the couple — dressed in matching gold and maroon traditional Malay outfits — gave a bow of respect before Hassanal and his two wives. The newlyweds then sat in a motor-driven carriage and led a procession around the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, which was festooned with colorful banners. Thousands of onlookers lined the streets, waving tiny flags.
Brunei has vast oil and gas reserves that have fueled the royal family's fortunes and made the country one of the richest per capita in the world. Its oil reserves are currently estimated at about 1.2 billion barrels.
Hassanal, 61, had an estimated net worth of nearly $40 billion in 1997, the most recent figures available. He has ruled the tropical Islamic country on Borneo island for nearly four decades, and his family has reigned for about 600 years.
Family members hold all key government positions. In addition to being prime minister, Hassanal holds the defense and finance portfolios, and is supreme commander of the armed forces.
Majeedah is the fourth of Hassanal's 11 children, and works as a senior officer in the environment, parks and recreation department. The groom is an assistant officer in the prime minister's office.