by Xia Ziyi
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Negara Brunei Darussalam, officially the Nation of Brunei, is a tiny Southeast Asian country you can barely spot on a map.
Regardless its tiny territory and small population, Brunei is often trotted out as an ideal Islamic state -- stable and prosperous, and with an educated and moderate Muslim society generally enjoying a high quality of life.
The sultanate has the second highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asia nations after Singapore, and is classified as a developed country. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts Brunei in the fifth place around the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity. The IMF also stated in a 2011 estimate that Brunei was one of two countries (the other being Libya) with their public debt at 0 percent of the national GDP.
The state is most famous for its bounty of oil and gas, which has fueled its economy for the past 75 years and beyond. Striking growth rates, averaging 56 percent during 1999-2008, transformed it into a newly developed country and ensured all Bruneians a secure life.
The enviable amenities include no taxes, free health care, free education, free pension, free trips to the holy city of Mecca, and subsidized houses, cars and gasoline, among others.
Taxi, a common transport means in most capital cities around the world, is seldom seen in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei's capital. According to the latest official figure, there are around 40 taxis in whole Brunei, as every household has more than two cars on average.
However, all the secular stuff in the country mingles well with tradition and religion. The law of the land is rooted in Quranic teachings, which permit a man to have up to four wives and demand women to wear hijab, though hijabs here are much more fashionable and colorful than their peers in the Middle East.
Mosque, a place of worship for Muslim Bruneians, is apparently the defining landmark in Bandar Seri Begawan. It's said that if you were to close your eyes and walk in any direction, the odds are the first thing you'd bump into might be a mosque.
Not to mention that the mosques look so amazing against the backdrop of a clear sky. The centerpiece of Bandar Seri Begawan is the royal Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and it is nothing less than gorgeous.
Named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the mosque as a symbol of the Islamic faith dominates the skyline of the capital. The building was completed in 1958 and is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.
Besides marble minarets and lush gardens full of fountains, the mosque's most recognizable feature, the main dome, is coated in gold, which makes every visitor whoop and gasp at its deluxe beauty.
For all the attractions Brunei can offer, one thing is short of appealing -- the country has no nightclub, no tacky bar and no shop that sells liquor, enough for barflies and those seeking romantic rendezvous to think twice before coming.