Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah, 30, son
of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah - the absolute and fabulously wealthy ruler of
350,000 subjects - wed Ms Sarah Salleh before 2,000 people in a traditional
Malay Muslim ceremony at Istana Nurul Iman, the 1,788-room main palace.
The Sultan escorted the Prince - wearing a gold
crown and a kris dagger tucked into his sash - to a golden chair on the
dais. He was joined by his bride, who emerged from a stateroom more than an
hour behind schedule.
The Prince placed a hand on her diamond tiara as
Muslim marriage prayers were recited for the centuries-old ceremony. She
stood radiant in an embroidered blue dress and veil and clasped a
gold-and-diamond bouquet. They then descended from the dais and kissed the
Sultan for his blessing.
The couple embarked in an open gold-coloured,
Rolls-Royce stretch limousine for an eight-kilometre parade across the
capital, accompanied by 103 limousines and vehicles carrying family members
as a marching band played.
But a tropical downpour soaked the couple, despite
footmen walking alongside their vehicle with umbrellas. Thousands of people,
many who had lined the streets since daybreak, scurried for cover after
catching a glimpse of the motorcade.
Despite a heavy rain, Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee
Billah Bolkiah and his bride Sarah Salleh ride in a motorcade as they drive
past the crowds after the wedding ceremony at the Palace in Bandar Seri
Begawan. -- AP
Earlier, a 21-gun salute sounded as Japan's Crown
Prince Naruhito, Bahrain's King Hamad, the Duke of Gloucester Prince Richard
and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia arrived and took their seats on
gold-trimmed chairs in the cavernous, chandelier-lined, main hall at the
South-east Asian guests included Prime Minister
Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan
Yew. Presidents Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia and Mrs Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo of the Philippines and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of
Malaysia were also present.
The ceremony caps two weeks of official
celebrations taking place in one of Asia's smallest but richest countries,
which shares Borneo island with Malaysia and Indonesia. An extravagant
banquet for the guests is scheduled for Friday followed by a fireworks
display. -- 2004 September 10 AP