A map of Brunei, coloured to show highland and lowland areas, vegetation and urban centresThe tiny nation of Brunei lies on the northern coast of the island of Borneo. It is surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. A narrow strip of Malaysian land separates Brunei into two parts. The mountainous eastern part, the Temburong District, is a land of unspoiled rainforests and mangrove swamps. The western part is much more developed: it is home to the capital and the major centres of Brunei’s huge oil and gas industries. Since the discovery of oil and gas in 1929, Brunei has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Lying close to the Equator, it has a tropical climate with hot, wet weather all year round.
Around 97% of Bruneians live in the western part of the country, in and around the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. About 40,000 people live on the Brunei River close to the city: all the houses here in Kampong Ayer (“water village”) are built on stilts in the water. Villages are linked by footbridges, and people use speedboats to travel around. The floating district is also home to mosques, shops, schools and a hospital.
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is also the country’s prime minister. He lives in a 1800-room palace and is said to have wealth equal to £12 billion ($20 billion).
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