Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is a an exclamation point above the Brunei River, and the so-called village in the water, Kampong Ayer. Built on an artificial lagoon on the banks of the river, the mosque initially seems more attraction than place of worship. However, this could not be farthest from the truth, and the grandiose mosque was in fact designed solely for prayer to Allah.
From around Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, the golden topped dome of the mosque shines in the night sky. Although its population is only 400,000, 2/3 of the population of Brunei adhere to Islam, laws are based on Sharia. The country is extremely proud of its Muslim population, and the golden mosque was built to honor this section of the country. At a cost of around 5 million USD, the Bruneian Sultan spared no expense: imported Italian marble pillars and floor, granite from Shanghai, crystal chandeliers from England, ornate carpets from Saudi Arabia and a main dome of pure gold.
Although the flashy exterior of the mosque and the ceremonial boat in its personal lagoon appear almost gimmicky in their seeming desire to draw in tourists, the mosque’s true purpose becomes clear when visitors realize they cannot enter the mosque, except in prayer. Despite the bar to entry for non-Muslims, the mosque is still one of the most beautiful structures in the country and declared by most to be the most beautiful and fantastic mosque in Southeast Asia.