BY NONI JAMALI
The Second White Rajah, Charles Brooke married an English woman called Margaret Alice Lili de Windt. He commissioned Kuching’s Astana, or Palace, in 1870 as a wedding gift for when she arrived from England. The Astana has occupied a significant place in the history of Sarawak; it was the venue for the various meetings of the General Council from 1873 to 1937. The original palace consisted of three simple buildings connected by passageways. Renovations and additions saw Kuching’s Astana grow in size and extravagance.
The imposing palace on the north bank across the river from the Waterfront was laid out in the style of an English manor house. It is the third and last residence built by the Brooke Rajahs and was occupied by the reigning Rajah until the Japanese Occupation in 1941. Today, Astana Kuching serves as the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak, and therefore not open to visitors. However, during Hari Raya (Aid-Fitr) celebration, the gate will be open to welcome visitors in the best tradition of Malaysia Open House practice.