Bolkiah, sultan of Brunei, celebrates 50 years in power

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Marking 50 years on throne

Brunei’s fabulously wealthy sultan marked 50 years on the throne in lavish style, traveling in a gilded chariot pulled by dozens of his subjects.

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Bruneians waiting to see the sultan

Tens of thousands of well-wishers lined the streets, waving the country's flag and cheering as the sultan passed by in his chariot.

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The sultan and the queen

The ruler and his wife, Queen Saleha, sat on golden thrones during a procession to mark his golden jubilee of accession to the throne in Bandar Seri Begawan. The 71-year-old is the 29th sultan of Brunei from a royal family that has ruled the country continuously for over 600 years.

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All that glitters ...

Behind its gilded facade, Brunei is an absolute monarchy with strict Shariah-based laws. Homosexuality is punishable by death — by hanging or stoning.

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The longer-reigning monarch

Only one living sovereign has ruled her people longer: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, pictured here with the sultan in 2015. She ascended to her throne on February 6, 1952.

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A palace with 1,800 rooms

The sultan held his royal audience in the throne room of the palace, a vast complex of resplendent white buildings with golden domes and almost 1,800 rooms.

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One of the world's richest nations

With a population of about 400,000 people, Brunei is one of the world's wealthiest nations — thanks in large part to abundant oil and gas reserves.

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Two weeks of celebrations

The festivities will continue on Friday, when Asian and Middle Eastern leaders attend a banquet to mark the jubilee.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is marking 50 years on Brunei's throne with a spectacular and lavish ceremony at his golden-domed palace. Among the sultan's contemporary monarchs, only Queen Elizabeth II has had a longer reign.