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From Rolls Royces to Golden Palaces: The Extravagant Life of the Sultan of Brunei

Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, became a subject of international condemnation in April of 2018, for prescribing the death penalty for those engaged in adultery or same-gender relationships. After receiving considerable backlash from celebrities and Western governments, the Sultan back-tracked on his harsh words and said that the punishment would not be imposed. However, he insisted that the law would still be enforceable and remain in the Islamic statute books.

The Sultan of Brunei was once known for his liberal and truly extravagant western lifestyle. Ever since the spontaneous global outcry and protests against the conservative Islamic ruler, the harsh spotlight of liberal opinion is now focussed on the glistening Sultanate of Brunei, with many questioning his values and also whether the 72-year-old ruler’s lifestyle conforms with his religious values.

Bolkiah’s Mega-family

Born in July of 1946, Hassanal Bolkiah hails from the royal family of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, III. It was well known that his father had multiple wives and 10 children. From the four sons and six daughters, Sultan Ali Saifuddien chose Bolkiah to be his successor, upon his demise.

A low-profile Person

For his studies, Bolkiah was sent to England in 1967 and was admitted to the UK’s Royal Military Academy. He laid low during his teenage years and he had been home-schooled prior to attending The Victoria Institution. When he turned 19, he was duly married off to Pengiran Anak Saleha, a union which was arranged through an Islamic settlement. Following the marriage, he ascended to the throne in August of 1968.

A lavish lifestyle indeed

For a King who rules over some 430,000 people, this Sultan knows the art of living life king-size. While much of Brunei’s population lives in poverty, Bolkiah is personally worth about $27 billion, due to the country’s massive oil exports and other businesses. He became world famous for purchasing a fleet of 500 Rolls Royces, luxurious hotels, yachts, numerous private and commercial jets, and for hosting splendid private parties for popular celebrities. Between him and Prince Jeffri, his brother, the pair blew up billions of dollars when betting in prominent casinos in and around London. Bolkiah also built a private zoo to entertain dignitaries and world leaders who visited Brunei for state visits, which has 30 Royal Bengal tigers. He also hired golfer Jack Nicklaus to design a customized golf course in one of his hotels!

The Commemoration

After Brunei became independent from the United Kingdom, the Sultan celebrated this momentous milestone by erecting an awe-inspiring palace worth $600-million and called it Istana Nurul Iman. Guinness World Records maintains that this palace is the world’s largest residential castle. The luxurious palace has 1,778 rooms, was designed by renowned architect Leandro Locsin, and is spread over 50 acres of architectural delight. Istana Nurul Iman has garages with a collection of around 800 luxurious cars including many Rolls Royces. The palace has a huge throne room used by the Sultan and has 57 bathrooms, as well.

Other luxurious purchases

Some more extravagant purchases by him include a painting called Young Girls at the Piano worth approximately $70 million. The Sultan has special haircuts which cost a staggering $20,000 per visit. He uses a large Boeing 767 for his state visits and for his leisure trips.

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