11 July 2024

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei – Brunei’s polo-playing Prince Abdul Mateen, one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors, married his commoner fiancee on Thursday as part of a lavish 10-day celebration in the oil-rich sultanate.

An Islamic marriage ceremony for the 32-year-old prince and Yang Mulia Anisha Rosnah, 29, was held inside a gold-domed mosque in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan.

Mateen is the 10th child of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah — the world’s longest reigning monarch and once the richest man on the planet — and is well down the succession pecking order.

His bride — the granddaughter of one of his father’s key advisers — reportedly has a fashion brand and co-owns a tourism business. Mateen, wearing a traditional white outfit decorated with diamond-shaped motifs and a matching headpiece, was driven to the mosque in a luxury saloon.

He sat on an elevated yellow cushion in front of an imam who presided over the male-only ceremony attended by the sultan and other relatives and guests. Afterwards, Mateen approached his father and kissed his hand.

Celebrations for the royal wedding reach their climax on Sunday with a glittering ceremony in the 1,788-room palace and an elaborate procession. The guest list is expected to include international royalty and political leaders.

“It’s like a fairytale,” university student Syahida Wafa Mohamed Shah, 22, told AFP on Wednesday, near the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, where the marriage was solemnised.

Many Bruneians plan to line the streets on Sunday to watch the royal newlyweds take part in a procession. “It’s like something from a movie,” said Nazatul Izzati Saifulrizal, 19.

– Extreme wealth –

The pomp and pageantry of the royal extravaganza highlights the tiny country’s extreme wealth, which is almost entirely derived from its enormous oil reserves.

A sliver of land on the northern edge of Borneo island in Southeast Asia, Brunei was influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism before its rulers converted to Islam in the 14th century.

It fell under British rule in the 19th century and gained independence in 1984. An absolute monarchy with strict Islamic laws and a population of only around 450,000 people, Brunei is one of the world’s richest countries.

Its annual GDP per capita is nearly $36,000, according to the International Monetary Fund. However, analysts have warned that Brunei faces serious challenges to diversify its economy away from oil as crude prices remain volatile and its reserves dwindle.

While the sultan has long lost the title of the world’s richest man to tech billionaires, his wealth remains the stuff of legend.

He is reported to have a vast collection of luxury vehicles and his riverside official residence is one of the world’s largest palaces.

– ‘Hot royal’ –

While Mateen is unlikely to ever ascend the throne, his matinee idol looks and huge following on social media have made him one of the highest-profile members of the royal family.

A helicopter pilot in his country’s air force, he has often been compared in the media with Britain’s Prince Harry and was previously dubbed the “hot royal”.

Mateen graduated as an officer cadet in Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and represented his country in polo at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

In recent years, he has played a growing role in international diplomacy.

The prince accompanied his father to the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla in May last year, and Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in 2022.

by Agence France-Presse