Continuing Marquette Turner’s theme of questioning what “Luxury is”, for this article we feature the largest Palace of the Sultan of Brunei.

The largest of the Sultan of Brunei’s four palaces, Istana Nurul Iman, is indisputably the world’s largest residential and administrative palace currently in use.

The palace is used for all State functions. It is both the seat of Brunei’s government and the location of the prime minister’s office. In addition to Audience and State Rooms, there is a Throne Chamber used for various occasions such as the proclamation of the Crown Prince and the annual Birthday Investiture.

At 2,152,782 square feet (200,000.0 m2) the palace has 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 square feet (200,000 m²). Amenities include 5 swimming pools, an air conditioned stable for the Sultan’s 200 polo ponies, a 110-car garage, a banquet hall that can be expanded to accommodate up to 5,000 guests, and a mosque accommodating 1,500 people. The palace was built in 1984 at a cost of around $400 million USD and has 564 chandeliers, 51,000 light bulbs, 44 stairwells, 18 elevators, and 13 (exterior) satellite dishes.

Furthermore, there’s a mosque for 1500 people, a banquet hall for 4000 guests, air conditioned stables for his 200 polo ponies, and 165 Rolls Royces, aeroplanes and helicopters.

The palace and its upkeep are funded by the oil wealth generated by Brunei, as are all of the grand structures in the country.

And even though the price of oil may have slumped, Brunei’s wealth still make perhaps the place to live right now, especially if long-term security is what you are after. Even though the people cannot vote, they pay no taxes, education and health care are free, everyone receives a pension, and the minimum wage is the highest in South-East Asia.

On the flip side, however, given the world’s massive reliance on oil and indeed the extravagance, and greed that it fosters, the extremes of rich and poor that are its result, is worth questioning what true “Luxury is.” I’ll leave that for you to define.

Simon Turner

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