Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Mosque in St Petersburg Russia

St Petersburg Mosque. (Source: Wikipedia)
Amidst all the church spires in central St. Petersburg in Russia stood two minarets belonging to a mosque. Unusually enough, the mosque was unnamed and many described it as the Saint Petersburg Mosque. I found the mosque accidentally when I was studying the map of St Petersburg.

The mosque was built in 1913 and at that time, there were about 8,000 Muslims living there. The mosque was built to accomodate all these people. Its architect wanted to copy the Gure Amir in Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Gure Amir was not a mosque but rather a tomb of Tamerlane. Tamerlane was recognised as a military genius wwas the most powerful ruler in the Muslim World in the 15th century.

Work began in 1910 when Emperor Nicholas II gave the permission to purchase the site. The site was opposite the Peter and Paul's Fortress, said to be where the first fort was built in St Petersburg. Skilled craftsmen from Central Asia worked on the mosque.

A Closer View of the St Petersburg Mosque which I took when I visited it on 29th June 2012. (Source: Rozan Yunos, 2012)
During the Second World War, the mosque was closed and was not used. It was not until 1956 that the mosque was reopened. The betautifully ornate architecure of the mosque was restored in 1980.
Even though it does not claim to be a tourist spot, many tourists ended up there nevertheless. When I visited it, there was a number of tourists there as well.

Friday, June 29, 2012

White Night in St. Petersburg

Greetings from the City of St Peter in Russia! What am I doing here I hear you ask. I am attending an APEC Meeting or to be more exact, APEC Women and the Economy Forum. You ask why me? Women issues are part of my portfolio. I look after Community and Culture half of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Community covers everything there is from women, children, old aged, the special needs etc. That is why I am here together with the other 21 economies representing their women side as well. Why St Petersburg? I don't know. The Russians are this year's APEC hosts, so they choose whichever city they wanted. You think St Petersburg is far? Well, you should know that the APEC Children's Games will be in Yakutsk. The APEC Summit will be in Vladivostok. St Petersburg by comparison looks much milder.

So far I have only seen St Petersburg by car, on the way to and from Lenoxpo where the Forum is held. It is an old city and has an important planning law - no buildings can be high. So there is no skyscraper in St Petersburg and every building is no more than about 6 storey tall or lower. Unlike other cities, St Petersburg did not grow naturally. It was founded about 300 years ago when Peter the Great needed to give Russia a sea outlet. Russia was then a land locked country. He defeated the Swedish, who at that time was a major power and established St Petersburg. He did not name it after himself but after St Peter, one of the Christian apostles.

Now St Petersburg is more known as the Russians cultural capital. It has more than 200 museums in the city and covers many topics. I passed by one this afternoon which was a Vodka Museum. The largest is the renowned Heritage Museum. It has a total of about 19 kilometers of galleries!

The first day we were here, we were surprised that even at 9 pm, the city was very alive as the sun has not gone down yet. You can see the long shadow but the sun is still up there and will not set until it is almost close to 12, and even then it does not really set. The local folks here call the phenomenon White Night. So during the summer there is white night and during winter, it is the other way round. Don't think about fasting this month, unless you are prepared to do it from before 3 in the morning to about midnight!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paintball in Brunei

Brunei paintball enthusiasts must be very happy when His Majesty was seen popping a few shots using paintball gun when he consented to visit the Program Khidmat Bakti Negara (PKBN) camp last Thursday, 21st June 2012.

When I took this photo, His Majesty was being instructed on how to use the gun. When he shot the gun, despite not being able to use it before, he hit the bullseye with every shot!

The paintball facility was originally set up for use by the PKBN trainees and I understand that with the end of their training, the facility will be available for rent for a short period of time. A permanent facility will be built in Jerudong.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Marine Biodiversity Centre at Meragang Beach

I was away for the whole week of 11th to 17th June to attend a meeting in Danang, Vietnam and during that week, I missed the opening of the Marine Biodiversity Centre which was officially opened by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources. So on the 18th which was a public holiday, I went there with my wife and my son.

We were suitably impressed. The centre is not that big but it contained enough details that would take the average reader quite a while to read. Inside the buildings there were a couple of small aquariums filled with lobsters, shrimps, groupers (ikan kerapu) and white fish. There was a lone white fish when we were there. The officers on duty told us that they had to fish the white fish out as the groupers (much larger) tend to be territorial and was attacking the white fish.

The centre had many displays including scientific instruments which my son had the chance to use to see for himself the cellular structure of the corals. They had displays of corals. I did tell them that some sort of sign ought to be put out that other than those on displays, people should not start to collect them and display them privately as that would destroy the corals.

Outside the building, there were also baby turtles which you can touch and handle. Visitors were not allowed to handle the smallest ones as their shells were still soft but the older ones were okay.

All in all it was a worthwhile visit. So, do come to Meragang Beach to visit the Marine Biodiversity Centre. Just drive along the Muara Tutong Highway towards Muara and just before you reach the end of the Highway, you will see the sign Meragang Beach and just drive in that road to the end.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

18th Gulingtangan Competition for Brunei Colleges and Secondary Schools

Maktab Duli as runners up in the 18th Gulingtangan Competition for Brunei Colleges and Secondary Schools

RIPAS Secondary School as the Winner of the 18th Gulingtangan Competition for Brunei Colleges and Secondary Schools
I was honoured to be invited to officiate at the 18th Gulingtangan Competition for Brunei Colleges and Secondary Schools on 23rd June 2012. It was held at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Secondary School in Tutong.

I have never been to the competition before and I had to admit I thought I would be looking at something very traditional which I always see being performed. When the first group from Maktab Duli went up the stage and started their performance, it was an eye opener. They were good, in fact, they were very very good. I did not realise that even a traditional instrument such as guling tangan could be made to sound the way it sounded. This is not even taking into account other on stage performances, theaterics and costume worn by the students. I was impressed. I had a bad flu on that day but the performances blew me away.

I thought Maktab Duli would have won it as the next seven schools did well but not as well rounded as the Maktab Duli's performance. Though RIPAS Secondary School, the last of the eight competitors did give Maktab Duli a run for their money. Even though in the end, I was a littlbe bit surprised when RIPAS Secondary School, the champions for the last three years won it for a fourth time with a score of 79.6 and Maktab Duli was second with a score of 79.3. I did ask the experts and the answer was that RIPAS was slightly better at managing the gulingtangan (mengangkat is the word that I was given). So Maktab Duli knows what to do to win it the next time round.

I was impressed with the preparation for the competition by RIPAS Secondary School as the host. It must have taken the teachers and their students a few weeks at least to get the stage ready and to put up all those huts and decorations on stage. So well done too for the successful hosting of the competition.

But above all, well done to everyone who took part and contributed towards making the Brunei legacy of gulingtangan, a legacy that will not be forgotten by the future generation of Bruneians.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Next Brunei Bookswap

B:READ will be organising their next Book Swap Event at Fun Bee Park, on Sunday, 1st July 2012. It is a follow up to their previous Book Swap Event at OGDC last March.

Activities during the next event will range from a quiz show and a writing collaboration, as well as the book swap. For those who are more hands-on with their creative outlet, Fun Bee Park will be offering a 30% discount to bookswappers, where they have the chance to create book marks out of either clay, paper or batik, make top hats like the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, fashion bunny ears and more. The offer will only be available on that day.

Everyone is invited to bring at least one book along (no limit), meet other book-lovers, browse books brought by others, and walk away with new books and friends.

Fun Bee Park is located at A6 and A7, Ground Floor, Sempurna Complex, Kampong Pengkalan Gadong. If you don't know where that is, call the shop at 2457729.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Brunei Stamp Used in West Indies

When I saw this stamp, I was very curious. Why would a Brunei stamp issued in 1907 be used in Kingstown, St Vincent in the West Indies?

There are a number of possibilities. My best guess would be that the letter was mailed on board a ship. Normally the stamps would be stamped 'PAQUEBOT'. However in this case, it was stamped using the regular stamp that was available.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Brunei Cannons Exhibition

Today the Brunei Cannons Exhibition was opened officially at the Malay Technology Museum at Jalan Kota Batu. I was most honoured to be invited to officially open the exhibition. Cannons have always been a fascination for me. The exhibition is opened to the public showing various examples of cannons that are in the Brunei Museums collection. Unfortunately due to space, only 31 of the about 800 cannons that the museum has, are shown in the exhibition. But these 31 are more than sufficient to show the richness and the wealth of cannons that we have here in Brunei. It is open to the public until 20 September 2012.

Haji Mohd Rozan, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports presenting Museums Department new book on cannons to Pengiran Dato Sharifuddin with Pudarno Binchin, the Ethnology Curator looking on. (Photo credit: Brunei Museums Department)

During the exhibition, this book entitled "Bedil: Khazanah Ristaan Brunei Silam" will be sold, priced at $9. Its normal price is $12. This book is a worthwile addition if you ever wanted to know more about Brunei cannons. This contained all the articles known that have been published about cannons in Brunei and new articles.

There are nine articles in the book with the following titles and authors:

1. An Introduction to Bedil: The Traditional Brunei Cannons written by Hj Md Rozan bin Dato Paduka Hj Md Yunos (note: I wrote this article originally for The Brunei Times in 2007)

2. Bentuk Tumbuh-Tumbuhan dalam Lorekan Perusaan Tembaga Tradisi written by Bantong Antaran (Bantong is currently the Director of Brunei Museums Department)

3. Brunei Brass: The Traditional Method of Casting written by Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng (currently Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, he was a former Museum Curator in his early days) and Pg Dato Shariffudin (a former Director of Brunei Museums Department)

4. Brunei Cannon written by Pg Dato Sharifuddin

5. Brunei Cannon: Function and Symbolism by Muhammad Zharif bin Haji Sabli (currently a student at UBD)

6. Bedil Brunei: Warisan Budaya Masyarakat Negara Brunei Darussalam written by Dk Norazah bte Pg Haji Muhammad (Ethnology Officer at the Brunei Museums)

7. Brunei Cannon: Their Role in Southeast Asia (1400 - 1900 AD) written by Tom Harrisson (the former pioneer of Archaeology in Brunei in the 1950s)

8. Teknologi Pembuatan Bedil di Brunei written by Puasa Kamis (Research at Ethnography Division at the Brunei Museums)

9. The Commodification of Bedil: From Weapon of Destruction (Defence) to Museum Display and Tourism written by Pudarno Binchin (currently Curator of Ethnography at the Brunei Museums)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kota Kinabalu 1932

I was surprised when I saw this postcard up for bidding. I thought at first it was a Brunei postcard because of the Brunei stamp but when I look closely, the postcard is that of Kota Kinabalu or better known then as Jesselton. In those days, Sabah was administered by the British Borneo Company and Jesselton was named after Sir Charles Jessel, who was then the Vice Chairman of the company. Jesselton did not become the capital until after the second world war.

This postcard shows the Karamunsing and Hospital Road way back in 1932.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Stamps for 50th Golden Jubilee of Royal Brunei Armed Forces

Last year the Royal Brunei Armed Forces celebrated its 50th Anniversary. I thought there will be stamps to commemorate the Golden Jubilee but there were not any. On 31st May this year, the stamps finally came out. The stamps are in a series of 5 stamps at 50cents each, $2.50 is the cost for the five stamps. There was also a miniature sheet with $50 stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary. I have lost count of how many $50 stamps now issued by the Brunei postal authorities.

The new stamps are issued in sheetlets of 5 sets and the miniature sheet with a single $50 stamp as follows:

The technical details for the philatelist:

Name of Issue:
Commemorative Stamp to Commemorate Golden Jubiless of Royal Brunei Armed Forces

Date of Issue:
31st May 2012

Stamp Denomination:
50 cents x 5

Size of Stamp:
30 mm x 40.5 mm

Miniature Sheet High Value:

Size of Miniature Sheet High Value:
110 mm x 150 mm

Awang Haji Rosaimi bin Haji Lamit

The British Security Printing Public Company Limited, Thailand

Printing Process:
Offset and Gold Foil Hot Stamping

102 gsm

13 per 2 cm

Texts by:
Royal Brunei Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence

Inspirational Quotes