Brunei gears up for royal wedding of Princess
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (AFP) - The daughter of the sultan of Brunei, one of the world's wealthiest men, is set to wed this weekend in a glittering ceremony at the monarch's 1,700-room palace.
Princess Hajah Hafizah Sururul Bolkiah, 32, and her groom Pengiran Haji Muhammad Ruzaini, 29, will exchange vows on Thursday in the tiny oil-rich Muslim sultanate that has been governed for 600 years by the same royal family.
The couple will then be officially presented to the royal court in an elaborate ceremony on Sunday that marks the climax of more than a week of wedding-related festivities.
South-east Asian leaders and foreign royalty were expected to be among the guests at a lavish royal banquet in honour of the newlyweds in the Islamic sultanate Sunday night, hosted by the bride's father, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 66.
The palace will not release the full guest list until the day of the banquet, a Brunei government spokesman said on Wednesday.
However, Prime Minister Najib Razak of neighbouring Malaysia will attend, a spokesman for his office said.
Ms Hafizah, who has a degree in business administration, is the fifth child of the sultan and Queen Saleha and works as an officer at the finance ministry.
Mr Ruzaini is a civil servant in the prime minister's office.
Both work under her father, who is prime minister as well as finance and defence minister.
The sultan has 12 children, five sons and seven daughters, from his three marriages, and the wedding is the first involving one of the sultan's children since 2007.
Such weddings are typically a rare source of excitement in Brunei, which is known for its slow pace of life and lack of nightlife - alcohol is largely banned under Islamic practice.
The wedding of Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah in 2004 attracted large crowds in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, and a guest list of over 2,000 people including members of the royal families of Japan, Jordan, Britain and Malaysia.
This week's festivities have included nightly vigils at the palace to bless the couple, but the monarchy will forgo a traditional public procession through the capital in the royal family's gilded Rolls Royce.
The normally secretive monarchy has not explained the move.
The sultanate, which dates back to the 15th century, is a Malay Muslim absolute monarchy which gained full independence from Britain in 1984.
Occupying a sliver of Borneo island, it is a major producer of oil and liquefied natural gas.
The energy wealth has brought Brunei's citizens, who number fewer than 400,000, one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia.