Welcome to my private journal generally on Brunei issues. Any opinions expressed are in my personal capacity. All rights to the articles are reserved.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Padians: Women Vendors on Brunei Waters

“When the tide rises, the women go in boats through the city selling provisions and necessaries,” Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler with the famous seafaring adventurer Magellan wrote this of Brunei way back in 1521, almost 500 years ago.

As late as the 1980s, every early day along the Brunei River, a visitor to Brunei can see a number of small Brunei sampans called ‘bidars’. These boats were rowed by women vendors with their extra large circular hats moving along up and down the houses along Kampong Ayer. Some of them also plied their wares along the jetties near the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. These women vendors were known as Padians.

However by the 1980s, the Padians were already a dying breed. In the next 10 years, none would be seen and today, the Padians have become completely extinct only remaining in the memory, paintings and photographs.

Yet the history of the Padians is the history of the Kampong Ayer itself. The method of vending along the Brunei River from one house to another has probably remained unchanged ever since the existence of the Kampong Ayer itself.

For historical reasons, Brunei has remained a seafaring nation and has never colonized much of the dry land. Even the thalasocracy that Brunei created in its heyday was concentrated on controlling trade to the interior at the mouth of the rivers, the entrance to Borneo’s interior parts and backed up by a powerful naval fleet of ships.

The Padians were said to be created by Pateh Berbai who eventually became Sultan Ahmad, Brunei’s second Sultan. In Syair Awang Semaun, Brunei’s contemporary epic poetic legends, it was said that Pateh Berbai got the idea of a floating market selling all sorts of foodstuffs, vegetables and commodities.

With such a big population (even in the 14th century, Brunei’s Kampong Ayer was estimated by Western travelers to consist of some 30,000 households), a big market on land would be difficult to manage. It would be more convenient for the wares to be sold on the boats on water and easier to disperse should there be any troubles or disputes.

However history indicated that it was the pattern of society that led to the development of the Padians. In the Brunei Malay society then, women were prohibited from wandering around freely and it was strictly applied. However food still needed to be purchased and this in turn led to the existence of the Padians. But with women unable to go out, it was a different class of women that did the plying of wares on water.

It was most likely that the first women vendors are indentured slaves (hamba) as only slaves had the liberty to go around at will, rowing a boat from one house to another.

At the same time, stratas in the Brunei Malay society also played an important role. These are in fact reflected in the names of the various villages in Kampong Ayer. The settlements reflected the status of the person as it also indicated the occupational activity of that person. For instance towards the lower part of Kampng Ayer would be mostly fishermen. It was the marketing of fish that most probably contributed to the existence of the Padian. The Padians would be selling their fish and other wares to the other Bruneians.

As time passed, more and more people took up the trade especially widows who quite often had to maintain large families. These women wore large head gear measuring some three to four feet across; although it was umbrella shaped as described by a British writer in 1848. But there were developments too even with the boats changing from a gubang to a bidar.

The Padians declined due to a number of factors. By 1906, the government had opened up the dry land and encouraged many Kampong Ayer residents to migrate to the interior parts. The development of the dry land and the capital brought about the existence of markets and ‘tamus’ or smaller markets. The Padians failed to continue serving as the centre of trade as the markets on dry land developed.

Padians were generally middleman – making a profit from the suppliers by marking up their prices and pocketing the difference. But by then, many of the suppliers brought their wares directly to the markets without going through the Padians.

The Kampong Ayer itself too has changed. Previously houses were isolated and one has to use the small boats to visit each other. However many houses were beginning to be connected via walkways called titians that are built on the river. That made the lanes in between the houses which can be navigated by the Padians becoming too narrow to navigate and some no longer freely available.

Proper shops too were built either on Kampong Ayer itself or in the newly developed town. This is not helped by prices being charged by the Padians not cheaper than in the shops. The high prices were necessary as the cost of their businesses may be higher.

Chinese Hokkien male hawkers were also taking the business away from the padians. These hawkers competed by having larger boats and therefore wider varieties.

The demise of the Padians was in some sense, expected to happen. They just disappeared one by one and eventually today, we don’t see them anymore. But what’s important we should remember that they played an important role in the lifeline and the development of the economy of Brunei over the last 500 years.

[Note: An edited version of the above article was published in The Golden Legacy column in The Brunei Times dated 19th May 2007.]

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No time?

Since last night my young son has been unwell. When I got back from work this evening I decided to take him to the hospital despite my exhaustion. There were many waiting, perhaps we will be delayed by more than an hour. I took my number and sat down the waiting room.

There were many faces, young and old, but all wer silent.

Some brothers made use of the many booklets available in the waiting room. Some of those waiting had their eyes closed, while others were looking around.

Most were bored. Once in a while the long silence was broken by a nurse calling out a number. Happiness appears on the one whose turn it is, and he gets up quickly; then silence returns.

A young man grabbed my attention. He was reading a pocket-sized Qur`an continuously; not raising his head even once.

At first I did not think much about him. However, after one hour of waiting my casual glances turned into a deep reflection about his lifestyle and how he utilizes his time. One hour of life wasted! Instead of that hour, it was just a boring wait. Then the call for prayer was made. We went to prayer in the hospital's mosque. I tried to pray close to the man who was reading the Qur`an earlier in the waiting room. After the prayer I walked with him. I informed him of how impressed I was of him and how he tried to benefit from his time.

He told me that most of our time is wasted without any benefit. These are days that go from our lives without being conscious of them of regretting their waste. He said that he started carrying the pocket-sized Qur`an around when a friend encouraged him to make full use of his time. He told me that in the time other people waste he gets to read much more of the Qur`an than he gets to read either at home or in the mosque. Moreover, besides the reward of reading the Qur`an, this habit saves him from boredom and stress.

He added that he has now been waiting for one and a half hours. Then he asked, when will you find one and a half hours to read the Qur`an?

I reflected; how much time do we waste? How many moments of our lives pass by, and yet we do not account for how they passed by?

Indeed, how many months pass by and we do not read the Qur`an? I came to respect my companion, and I discovered that I am to stand for account and that time is not in my hand; so what am I waiting for? My thoughts were interrupted by the nurse calling out my number; I went to the doctor.

But I want to achieve something now.

After I left the hospital I quickly went to the bookshop and bought a pocket-sized Qur`an. I decided to be mindful of how I spend the time.

If this information is beneficial to you, then please do forward it to your friends and relatives. Our Prophet (sallallaahu'alaihi wa sallam) said;"Whoever guides or directs to good, then he gets the same amount of blessing (reward) as the one who does it"

The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) also said "Pass on knowledge from me even if it is only one verse"

May Allah bless us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kisah Rumput dan Orang Yang Disayangi

Pada suatu pagi di satu sekolah menengah, ada seorang pelajar bertanya pada seorang guru yang sedang mengajar. Ketika itu, guru tersebut sedang menyentuh mengenai kasih dan sayang secara am. Dialog di antara pelajar dan guru tersebut berbunyi begini :

Pelajar : Cikgu, macam mana kita nak pilih seseorang yang terbaik sebagai orang paling kita sayang? Macam mana juga kasih sayang itu nak berkekalan?

Cikgu : Oh, awak nak tahu ke? Emmm...baiklah, sekarang kamu buat apa yang saya suruh. Ikut je ye...mungkin kamu akan dapat apa jawapannya.

Pelajar : Baiklah...apa yang saya harus buat?

Cikgu : Kamu pergi ke padang sekolah yang berada di luar kelas sekarang juga. Kamu berjalan di atas rumput di situ dan sambil memandang rumput di depan kamu, pilih mana yang PALING cantik tanpa menoleh ke belakang lagi walaupun sekali. Dan kamu petiklah rumput yang PALING cantik yang berada di depan kamu tersebut dan selepas itu bawa balik ke kelas.

Pelajar : Ok. Saya pergi sekarang dan buat apa yang cikgu suruh.

Apabila pelajar tersebut balik semula ke kelas, tiada pun rumput yang berada di tangannya. Maka cikgu pun bertanya kepada pelajar tersebut.

Cikgu : Mana rumput yang cikgu suruh petik?

Pelajar : Oh, tadi saya berjalan di atas rumput dan sambil memandang rumput yang berada di situ, saya carilah rumput yang paling cantik. Memang ada banyak yang cantik tapi cikgu kata petik yang paling cantik maka saya pun terus berjalan ke depan sambil mencari yang paling cantik tanpa menoleh ke belakang lagi. Tapi sampai di penghujung padang, saya tak jumpa pun yang paling cantik. Mungkin ada di antara yang di belakang saya sebelum itu tapi dah cikgu cakap tak boleh menoleh ke belakang semula, jadi tiadalah rumput yang saya boleh petik.

Cikgu : Ya, itulah jawapannya. Maknanya, apabila kita telah berjumpa dengan seseorang yang kita sayang, janganlah kita hendak mencari lagi yang lebih baik daripada itu. Kita patut hargai orang yang berada di depan kita sebaik-baiknya. Janganlah kita menoleh ke belakang lagi kerana yang berlaku tetap dah berlaku. Dan semoga yang berlalu tidak lagi berulang.

Jika kita berselisih faham dengan orang yang kita sayang itu, kita boleh perbetulkan keadaan dan cuba teruskan perhubungan tersebut walaupun banyak perkara yang menggugat perhubungan tersebut. Dan ingatlah orang yang kita sayang itulah kita jumpa paling cantik dan paling baik pada MULAnya walaupun nak ikutkan banyak lagi yang cantik dan baik seperti rumput tadi. KECUALILAH jika perhubungan tersebut tak boleh diselamatkan lagi, maka barulah kita mulakan sekali lagi. Maka sayangilah orang yang berada di depan kita dengan tulus dan ikhlas.

"...kadangkala ALLAH hilangkan sekejap matahari..Kemudian DIA datangkan pula guruh & kilat.. Puas kita menangis, mencari di mana matahari! Rupa2nya ALLAH nak hadiahkan kita PELANGI..."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

'Uthman ibn 'Affan - the angels are shy

WHEN approaching his death, 'Umar ibn Khattab, the second successor of Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessing be upon him) did not appoint a successor though he was alive for some time after being stabbed.

Rather, he appointed a committee of six honourable individuals whom he ordered to elect a Khalifah (the head of Muslim nation) from amongst themselves. He clearly warned them against choosing his son 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar who was also on the committee.

'Umar chose these six people based on his knowledge that the Prophet had departed this world feeling pleased with every single one of them. This was the best way for the successor to be chosen. For 'Umar to merely appoint a successor - as requested to him - would have established a wrong tradition and could have let to dissent and controversy. 'Umar also put the issue into the most capable and knowledgeable Companions of the Prophet and left it for them to choose one from amongst themselves. These six all knew from the Prophet's teachings the requirement to consult the Muslims in their affairs; they had done this but ultimately it was within this committee of six that the decision was made.

After Abu Bakr and 'Umar ibn Khattab, 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, then 68-year-old, was officiated as the third Khalifah in 644 AD or 12 years after the Prophet passed away.

Not only was he among the closest companions, 'Uthman was a son-in-law to the Prophet, twice. After Ruqayyah died, the Prophet consented to ask 'Uthman to marry another of his daughters, Ummu Kulthum. "If she died and I still have daughter, I would like 'Uthman to marry her too," the Prophet stated to show his respect to 'Uthman's personal quality.

Even before he embraced Islam, 'Uthman was a man of honest and respectful ways. He had never committed fornication before or after the coming of Islam, nor did he ever want another religion apart from Islam, nor had he killed anyone.

Even though he was famous for his business and leadership ability, 'Uthman was a man of great modesty. One day, the Prophet was lying down in his house with his thighs or his calves exposes. Abu Bakr - and later 'Umar - asked permission to enter and was permitted while the Prophet was in that position and he came in and spoke with them. When 'Uthman asked permission, the Prophet sat up and straightened his clothing. He was then given permission. 'Uthman came in spoke with the Prophet.

The Prophet's wife Aisha bint Abu Bakr asked why he treated 'Uthman differently. The Prophet answered, "Should I not be shy of a man around whom the angels are shy (because of his modesty)?"

The Prophet informed his companions of two things regarding 'Uthman's future: entering paradise after facing a great calamity. Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari was in the company of the Prophet in one of the gardens of Madinah. In the Prophet's hand there was a stick, and he was striking slowly the water and the mud with it.

Abu Musa said, "A man came (at the gate of the garden) and asked permission to enter. The Prophet said, 'Open the gate for him and give him the glad tidings of entering Paradise'."

Abu Musa related, "I went, and behold! It was Abu Bakr. So I opened the gate and informed him of the glad tidings of entering Paradise. Then another man came and asked permission to enter. The Prophet said, 'Open the gate for him and give him the glad tidings of entering Paradise.' Behold! It was 'Umar. So I opened the gate for him and gave him the glad tidings of entering Paradise. Then another man came and asked permission to enter."

"The Prophet was sitting in a leaning posture, so he sat up and said, 'Open the gate for him and give him the glad tidings of entering Paradise with a calamity which will befall him or which will take place'. I went, and behold! It was 'Uthman. So I opened the gate for him and gave him the glad tidings of entering Paradise and also informed him of what the Prophet had said (about a calamity)."

He answered, "I only seek Allah's help." He was killed 12 years after being appointed as Khalifah.

[Note: My apologies to the Brunei Times for publishing this without BT's permission. This article was written by Qaula Thaqila and was published on 18th May 2007 in The Brunei Times.]

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Faith - Be Careful of Deviation

I had a chat with my sister yesterday and the subject turned towards the black deviationist magician on Thursday's BB. We were wondering why on earth would anyone believe that these people can do anything. But then when I think about the pyramid scam schemes etc, we are pretty gullible people sometimes. Not to mention when we are financially distressed and someone jangled a little hope in front of us, then the temptation to believe in anything is there.

My sis told me that when she attended a strengthening Aqidah course at the Islamic Dakwah Centre and one of the course materials included a list of deviationist groups that has ever operated in Brunei. I thought the list was interesting as I did not know much about it and I thought I will spread a little bit of this knowledge.

BABIYYAH or BAHA'IYYAH - Leader: Mirza Muhammad Ali and Mirza Hussein Ali - the group claimed that they received another kitab called Al-Bayan and that they are here to unite all the world's religions under the Bahai Religion; also claimed to be Imam Mahdi Al-Muntazar. (Banned in Brunei in 1970)

Tarekat MUFARRDIYAH - Leader: Syeikh Muhammad bin Makmun - the group claimed there is an angel named Karakaz and that you can have him to protect you, claimed to be able to identify the pious (wali Allah) graves, claimed to be Imam Mahdi Al-Muntazar as well as Jesus. (Banned in Brunei in 1971)

QADIANI - Leader: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani - he claimed to be another prophet, claimed that Nabi Isa has risen and has migrated to Kashmir, claimed that the spirits of Nabi Isa and Nabi Muhammad has entered his soul, changed the positioning of verses in Al-Quran etc. (Banned in Brunei in 1970)

SILAT LINTAU - Leader: Ishak bin Hassan, Malaysia - claimed among others that Allah is now human through Nabi Muhammad, claimed that Allah's spirits has entered into his and his followers' souls, claimed that there are 4 kiblats when praying etc. (Banned in Brunei in 1980)

AL-ARQAM - Leader: Haji Asy'ari bin Muhammad - he claimed that Syeikh Muhammad As-Suhaimi disappeared and did not die and will rise to te Imam Mahdi Al-Muntazar, claimed that when they prayed and gathered in Yaqazah, it was attended by Nabi Muhammad dan his followers can ask for help from Syeikh Muhammad As-Suhaimi. (Banned in Brunei in 1991)

Teaching of Abdul Razak bin Muhammad - Leader: Abdul Razak bin Hj Muhammad - he claimed to be able to get a dead soul to be present, that Allah is present in the physical being of Nabi Muhammad and that he is also a prophet and claimed to have met Nabi Muhammad SAW himself. (Banned in Brunei in 1994)

Teaching of Saihoni bin Tasipan - Leader: Saihoni bin Tasipan - he claimed to be able to call a dead soul, claimed to know when the sky would be opened, claimed to know who are the prophets in Brunei and claimed to know all sorts of things. (Banned in Brunei in 2002)

Teaching of AL-MAUNAH - Leader: Md Amin bin Razali - claimed to be able to use all sorts of charms etc. (Banned in Brunei in 2002)

To avoid getting tangled into the various deviationist group, the Centre's advise is that we should hold onto the 4 of the source of Islam's teachings - Al-Quran, Hadith, Ijmak Ulama and Qias; ask and learn about the religion from the right teachers, the study the background of teachers and to avoid learning anything when the place of teaching is remote and hidden. Hopefully, we all can learn something from this.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Makkah Flood of 1941

Here are the second set of photographs depicting the aftermath of the great floods of Makkah of 1941. The first photograph is probably among the better known ones. I don't know of any these outside these two sets. If there are anymore out there, I would love to have them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mecca Flooded

In 1941, there a very heavy rainfall in Makkah and caused one of the biggest flooding that has ever taken place in Makkah. Here is the first set of photographs taken during the aftermath of that downpour.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old Brunei Photographs

I got an e-mail with the following photographs taken of Brunei around 1970s and probably older. These are interesting as I have not seen these photographs before but they are good quality ones for a change.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Story of Brunei's Oil Discovery

The story of the discovery of oil in Brunei’s oil town, Seria has often been told even in school text books but no body remembers how difficult it was to find oil in Brunei Darussalam at the beginning.

When we look at the approximately 200,000 barrels of oil that our nation produced daily and the billions of revenues that we get from the sale of oil and gas, it is a wonder that it was ever found in the first place.

By the early 20th century, Brunei, once a powerful regional thalassocracy (maritime power) had become a poor country. Brunei had lost almost all of its territories and was confined to the current tiny area in the vast Borneo Island. It needed something of a miracle and it found it when oil was discovered in Brunei and in particular in abundance where Brunei is currently.

Oil has been more or less expected to be found in the North West Borneo area. By the mid 19th century, seepages have been reported in a number of places and oil prospectors have come in droves flooding in to Borneo and into Brunei all hoping to be the lucky person to find that oil.

Oil prospectors tried drilling in a number of places. In Labuan, a hole was actually drilled there as early as 1866. In Brunei, an oil seepage was reported in the late 19th century. It was at a place called Ayer Bekunci near Kampung Kasat which is around the Sungai Kebun area in Kampong Ayer and just across the Brunei River from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, then known as Pekan Brunei.

A well was drilled for the first time in Brunei in 1899. The drilling went down as deep as 850 feet but unfortunately no oil was discovered. After that attempt, interest in finding oil in Brunei waned.

But that all changed when in 1910, oil was discovered in the neighbouring district of Sarawak, Miri. That renewed the flagging interest of discovering oil in Brunei Darussalam. In 1911, a geological survey for Brunei was conducted by the British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate Limited.

A number of other companies were also given oil prospecting and mining rights to find oil in Brunei Darussalam. The British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate Limited was given 169 square miles in the Belait District. The Shanghai Langkat Company from Singapore was given a small area in Jerudong. The Nederland Koloniale Petroleum Maatschappij, a Dutch Company in the Belait District, The Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company Limited in the Tutong District and Asiatic Petroleum Company (Federated Malay States) Limited was also given rights. The latter two are Shell Group companies.

All the companies mined between 1912 to 1923 and between all of them, in those 12 years, they only had one ‘oilshow’ (the character or traces of oil showing or present) but all the other oil wells in all the districts were dry. As a result most of them abandoned their operations with the exception of Shell. It bought the Petroleum Syndicate’s rights and from 1923 onwards, Shell began serious exploration works in the Belait District. Belait District, being the area adjoining the Miri District in Sarawak looked to be quite promising to Shell as it had already produced oil commercially there.

However Shell did not have that much success in the beginning. In Labi, the British Malayan Petroleum Company (BMP), the Shell company drilled a few oil wells and one produced oil even though the amount was not of commercial quantities. Another produced gas at high pressure.

It wasn’t until 1926 before the search for oil began in earnest in Seria. The story oft been told regarding the discovery was that a Mr. F.F. Mariott, then BMP’s Field Superintendent in Labi and and a Mr. T.G. Cochrane (later Lord Cochrane), then the General Manager of Sarawak Oilfields Limited, another Shell company were on the way towards Kuala Belait from Miri. They stopped at Kuala Balai, then considered as the capital of the Belait District and used two bicycles to visit a geophysicist in the Lumut area.

It was a relatively long journey and they stopped at Padang Berawa, near Sungai Seria to rest. That was when Cochrane smelled oil and told the geophysicist to suggest the survey further south to Padang Berawa. At that time Padang Berawa (wild pigeon’s field) was unknown and was described as a swamp and the conditions in that area was terrible.

However a number of gas seepages were reported and when analysed at Shell Headquarters in Holland indicated that it was methane and ethane gas indicating the possibility of oil gas. A detailed survey was conducted and coreholes were drilled. The first proper oil well named S-1 was drilled in July 1928 near the beach and struck oil and gas at 974 feet when it began flowing. And the rest is history.

Padang Berawa as a name disappeared from the records and Seria named after Sungai Seria became the new name for the newly created town. It took quite a while before Seria was established. In the early days, all equipment had to ferried in. The first buildings were relatively primitive.

It wasn’t until 1938 that the road connecting Kuala Belait and Seria was completed. Before that, one had to drive along the beach and wait for the tides to go out. It was the same from Seria to the capital. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the road from Kuala Belait to Bandar Seri Begawan (then Pekan Brunei) was finally connected.

As a side note, it is interesting to note that the company name ‘Shell’ was not visible in all the early Shell companies that operated in Brunei. The discovery of oil in Seria was made by a Shell company called Sarawak Oilfields Limited and the oil production was operated by another Shell company called British Malayan Petroleum Company Limited. The Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Limited did not operate until 1957.

Note: An edited version of the above article was published in The Golden Legacy column in The Brunei Times dated 12th May 2007.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hailstorms in the Desert

On Thursday, 12th April 2007, the rain and hail storm that struck Huraimala in Saudi Arabia (about 100 km from Riyadh) was so heavy that the desert was flooded. The hailstorms had hails so big the size of oranges and it literally broke car windshilelds and damaged cars without much problems. I was emailed the following photographs:-

The will of the Al-Mighty. "Unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth." [Surah Al-Baqarah: 284]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

7th National Convocation for Technical & Vocational Education

It was an emotional moment for some parents. I did not realise it but when the Education people told me then I realised why it should be emotional for them.

I saw a few parents cried during last Thursday's National Convocation for students with technical and vocational qualifications. More than 700 students received their diplomas and certificates. Most of the diplomas were National Diplomas in various subjects (NDs are one step lower than HNDs). Another third received their National Certificates or National Trade Certificates 2 or NTC 3 and about 200+ received their National Vocational Certificate in Clerical Studies.

Most students taking the NDs, NTCs and NVCs are generally those who did not go through the Academic routes. A few will make it to HNDs and eventually to degrees but generally most will join the labour market. The new NVC in Clerical Studies are for those who did not even pass PMBs. If a student fail their PMB twice, they will be put on the NVC route and will come out with a trade or a vocation. These are the ones that the parents are especially proud of and that's why some of them cried. These students in the days prior to NVC would have just gone off the radar screen without hope of getting any employment whatsoever. The fact that they are now able to learn something and get a piece of paper is itself a major achievement.

I am glad that MOE pursued this qualification and that we are able to provide students with something instead of just sending them out without any qualification whatsoever or worse sending them out into the open world with just academic qualification. Not everyone can be PhDs. This is where sometimes we should focus on. Too often we focused on the bigger issue which require major solutions and yet the solution sometimes lies on doing something simple. Hopefully we can come with more solution like this in the future.

Just for the record, it was a long two and a half hours sitting on the stage watching these students passed by, I did a count. Out of the National Diplomas being awarded, they are given in the following subjects (with graduating numbers in brackets) - Computer Studies (59), Construction (27), Electronic and Communication Engineering (43), Fabrication & Welding Engineering (17), Geomatics (11), Hotel and Catering Management (16), Interior Design (24), Information and Library Management (13), Mechanical Engineering (3), Property Management (10), Radio, Television & Electronic Technology (16), Science (13), Travel and Tourism Services (14), Vehicle Body Engineering (7), Automotive Engineering (6), Building Services Engineering (12), Electrical and Electronic Engineering (6), Instrumentation & Control Engineering (6), Marine Engineering (12), Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering (9), Plant Engineering (20), Business and Finance (48) and Secretarial Studies (10). I lost count for the Certificates. I do know that there were 411 for the NDs, 4 for NCs and 325 for the NTC and NVCs. I sure hope the government and the economy will be able to provide jobs for all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The House of Nabi Muhammad SAW

On the 12th of Rabi'ul Awwal, in the year of the Elephant, our prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was born. The house of his mother, Siti Aminah was in a small village in Mecca called Syib 'Ali.

The house was not kept and for a time a mosque was built on top of it. An old photo of the mosque on where the house used to be is here. However this old photo is the only known photo of the mosque. This mosque is no longer there and on top of it has been built, a library.

Recently it has been reported that that library built on the site of the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. was also to be demolished and in its place a new library was to be bulit. According to some of the websites that I read, the original desire of the Saudi authorities was to redevelop and take down the original foundations of the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. more than 50 years ago, but luckily the site was saved. Instead a library was built around the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad SAW's house foundations and walls. Even though it is possible to visit the library inside when it is open occassionally the 1400 year old walls and artefacts have been blocked off to public access. The photograph of that library is as follows:

But even this library may not last any longer. It could have been torn down by now. Nobody seemed to know much about it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

American Right Hand Cars?

I was at the American Ambassador's for a dinner the other day and the conversation went to the jeep that he drove. I was quite surprised that the jeep was a right hand drive and he bought it in America and shipped to Brunei.

If you said 'so what', you have forgotten that in America they drive on the left hand side - the steering wheel is on the left and not on the right as it is in our case. So for an American company to be selling right hand drive cars in America to an American is pretty unusual.

Apparently a few American companies sell right hand cars for right hand drive in America as well as convert the left hand drive cars into right hand drive cars. If you trawl on the internet you would find a number of American companies doing conversions for cars that will be driven on the 'wrong side' of American roads. We drive our cars on the left side of the road and sit on the right hand side in the cars. The American drive their cars on the right side of the road and sit on the left hand side in the cars. The first time I drove in an American car, I was quite confused as it is my right hand which is now changing the gear. Everytime I reached a junction, I have to think which lane should I go to?

So, if it's so confusing - why should American companies do that? It seemed that the cars are used for postal deliveries. In America, postmen deliver letters to the countryside and they put them in mailboxes along the roads. If they were to use an American car - remember, they will be sitting on the left hand side of the car and the cars will be travelling on the right hand side of the road and for him as a postmen to reach out and put letters in the mailboxes would be cumbersome as he had to stretch across the car.

But if he was to use a right hand drive and drive on the right hand side of the road, he can just lean out the window and put the letters into the mail boxes by the roads. He would look quite funny on an American road as he will be sitting on the right hand side and it would look (to an American) that there is no driver in the car as the left hand side of the car would be empty.

One of the interesting point that occured to me is that, why not import more right hand drive cars? The cost of conversion is probably equal to the cost of importation. But then I guess that would leave the American conversion industries in trouble.

I guess my point is that you can do things that you may not be allowed to do normally but because circumstances demand it, then you do it (driving right hand drive instead of left hand ones). At the same time when there is an easy solution, we sometimes go for the harder ones (importation instead of conversion). I wonder where else can we apply this lesson to?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Makam Nabi Salleh A.S.

These are the photographs of the said to be the Mausoleum of Prophet Saleh A.S. (Makam Nabi Salleh Alaihi Salam) which is located in Sinai, Egypt.