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Bandar Seri Begawan History, Brunei Darussalam

Bandar Seri Begawan History – Early Settlement and Function

The banks of the Brunei River have been inhabited since the 7th century and this is visible not only in the Bandar Seri Begawan history, but also in that of Kampong Ayer, a water village whose traces remain visible to this day. Kampong Ayer used to be located where the present National Museum building lays and it was the initial spot from which the city started developing. Since then the expansion of the settlement depended highly upon trades and fishing and the population started growing mainly through marine related activities. The settlement has apparently changed its location three times since it was founded, the final location being that where Bandar Seri Begawan lies today.

Bandar Seri Begawan History – Prosperity and Development

Sources documenting Bandar Seri Begawan history state that by the 16th century there were as many as 25.000 families in the area, which is not known for a fact, but still gives some indication about the degree to which the settlement started developing. Brunei Town, as the city was known until 1970, had a reported population of 100.000, making it a wealthy and powerful regional centre that outran most of the nearby Malaysian cities like Tawau and Kuching but also Borneo and the Philippines. The apparent reasons for which the population decreased in number are war and interior migration, but plans for expansion are currently being made and the city is about to grow larger and more prosperous.

Bandar Seri Begawan History – Modern and Contemporary Era

After 1906 concrete actions were made to develop and urbanize the city centre after the British McArthur encouraged population migration to the left bank of the Brunei River. The sultan himself moved his residency there and all the Chinese merchants and traders followed him soon after. A Municipal Board was established in 1921 and since then more and more private houses and public institutions appeared in the same place, giving a concrete shape to the plans that have been made for the city. Much of the way the city expanded is closely related to its surroundings, as the hilly regions in the west didn’t allow as much expansion as the flatter northern regions. The city was named Bandar Seri Begawan due to the late father of Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien and Begawan comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “God”, while Bandar means “port” in Persian. The allied forces invaded the territory and heavily bombed it just before the end of World War II, taking a heavy toll on a city that was in full expansion. Reparations were almost done by the year when the city was renamed, 1970, and now there are ambitious plans of expansion that are already starting to take shape.

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