Breathtaking Brunei wows globe-trotter

Azlan Othman

Bangladeshi-Swedish explorer Najmun Nahar recently made Brunei Darussalam the 140th country she visited in her quest to complete a global exploration and create her own record.

Proudly carrying Bangladesh’s flag and an inflatable globe around the world, Najmun has travelled thousands of miles alone by road, from one country to another to spread the message of peace, especially to children because the future of the world is in their hands.

When met at backpacker hostel near the capital recently, Najmun spoke of her adventures.

She gives motivational speeches around the world, drawing inspiration from her travelogue, and urges people in different parts of the globe to spread the message of humanity.

“I prayed for world peace and prosperity while at the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan,” she said. “Mankind should not fight with each other.”

Najmun Nahar at Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas in the capital. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN
Najmun in Africa

“I felt like crying inside the mosque. I like seeing the country’s heritage, culture and beauty in the Sultanate and am impressed with the life,” she said, describing Brunei as “peaceful, rich in natural biodiversity and filled with friendly people”.

Recalling her adventures, Najmun said there were many dangers but she never gave up. She encountered at least five incidents which could have led to her death.

“When I was in Guatemala, two thugs armed with knives attacked my friend and me at a secluded place. Luckily, my friend wrestled the thugs, although he sustained injuries,” she said.

She said she almost died above 14,000ft at Peru’s Rainbow Mountains because of low air pressure at high altitude and also survived without food in the African savannah.

She ate raw meat to survive in an Ethiopian tribal group and was stuck for 26 hours in the darkness of a mangrove jungle at Guinea Conakry, West Africa with a small amount of food. Her skin was burnt during her adventure in the high temperatures of the Sahara Desert. “In Guinea Conakry, the car that I was travelling in broke down in the middle of the road,” she said. “My father once told me to never be afraid of the dark, since there will always be light. You have to be brave. I walked three hours to the nearest village and six kilometres to get water, with only an orange to sustain me.”

As a solo traveller, an Asian, a Muslim and a woman, Najmun has broken all the stereotypes of being confined in only one culture. She crossed many rivers, oceans, jungles and deserts around the world and survived dangerous African insects. She has taken it all in her stride and gone ahead, travelling from one nation to another.

She visited every single country in South America, West Africa, South Africa and East Africa by road. She travelled to most of the European and Asian countries, and is targetting smaller territories and islands in her pursuit to complete her global journey.

Najmun has received several accolades for her achievements from different parts of the world and from Bangladesh. Recently, she received the International Peace Torch Award, the recipients of which included the late Mother Theresa.

Najmun made unprecedented history through her journey. Her involvement in the International Adventure Programme of India in 2000 sparked her travelling career. By visiting Panchmari, a district of Bhopal, India, she started the journey in what was the beginning of something special in her life. She carried the Bangladeshi flag before children of at least 80 countries, introducing Bangladesh to them.

Najmun completed her post-graduation in Asian Studies from Lund University, Sweden and graduated from the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh studying political science.

She studied Human Rights and Asia at Seoul National University, South Korea, and worked as Research coordinator at Swedwatch, Sweden.