|Raja Nazrin's Long-time Friend First To Arrive For Royal Wedding
FOREIGN GUESTâ€¦ Timor Shah Rafiq and his wife Sultana. Rafiq, a long-time friend to Raja Muda Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah is the first of the foreign invitees to arrive for the royal wedding. Pix: Syed Muhammad Zahid
By Hafizah Kamaruddin
KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 (Bernama) -- Timor Shah Rafiq, a long-time friend of Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, is the first of the foreign invitees to arrive for the royal wedding of the Raja Muda of Perak on Thursday.
Rafiq, 53, with his wife Sultana and their two children, Madeena Sultan, 15, and Amir Sultan, 10, arrived here on Thursday from California, bringing along with them the traditional baju melayu, kebaya and baju kurung to be worn for the matrimonial ceremony.
Raja Nazrin, 50, is marrying chemical engineer Zara Salim Davidson, 34, the grand-daughter of the former Kedah Menteri Besar Tan Sri Syed Omar Syed Abdullah Shahabudin and great-grand-daughter of the 24th ruler of Kedah Sultan Abdul Hamid Halimshah.
The friendship between Rafiq, an Afghan, who migrated to the United States in 1979, and Raja Nazrin started way back in 1978 when the Raja Muda of Perak became the former's housemate at a double-storey apartment at Devenant Road, Summertown, a north suburb of Oxford.
Raja Nazrin, then 22, was in his final year at Oxford University for his bachelor's degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, while Rafiq, then 25, was taking a degree in Civil Engineering.
Despite being together for only less than a year, they got along very well and their friendship grew closer when Raja Nazrin went to the United States in the 1980's to pursue his masters degree in public administration and later a doctorate in political economics and government at the Harvard University.
"Nazrin is a very loyal friend. He is a person who constantly keeps in touch once you know him. It is hard not to keep in touch with him," he said.
Their friendship grew further over the years, having travelled together to many places including performing the Haj and Umrah.
Rafiq is now the President of his company, "Rafiq and Associates Inc", which provides solutions for transportation plans and engineering projects in the United States.
When he first met Raja Nazrin, Rafiq was not aware of the Raja Muda's royal background. "He was a studious guy," he said of Raja Nazrin, the eldest child of the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, and Raja Permaisuri Tuanku Bainun.
"He too believed in hardwork and the importance of a balanced life. This was the common bond between us.
"He has an inquisitive mind, a fast learner and believes in excellence in his endeavours," said Rafiq, adding that Raja Nazrin had the ability to put everyone at ease and feels comfortable talking to anyone, from a VIP to a young university student.
Though Rafiq was not aware that Raja Nazrin was a Malaysian prince, he could sense that the Raja Muda of Perak was from a high-class family based on his poise, mannerism and the way he interacted with friends and students.
"I could sense that he could go far despite him being humble in so many ways," he said.
Rafiq said that only during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles that Raja Nazrin, who was then pursuing his masters degree at the Harvard University, told him who he was because Sultan Azlan Shah, was then newly proclaimed on Feb 3, 1984 as the 34th Sultan of Perak and a week later on Feb 9 elected as the new Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong, was coming to the Olympics with tight security.
However, this did not affect their friendship. Rafiq said that despite Raja Nazrin being the Raja Muda of Perak, he still maintained the same values as a dedicated and committed person and a loyal friend.
Rafiq, who first visited Malaysia in 1984 on the invitation of Raja Nazrin, said he felt honoured when he was invited to witness the installation of Sultan Azlan Shah as the Sultan of Perak on Dec 12, 1985. Since then he has been a frequent traveller to Malaysia.
"Raja Nazrin also attended my wedding with Sultana in San Francisco in 1989," he said.
On the current position of Raja Nazrin as the Raja Muda of Perak, Rafiq said Raja Nazrin has a "big shoe to fit in" since his father was a man of many talents, not only a learned and a highly-qualified ruler in Malaysia but also an avid sportsman.
However, Raja Nazrin has admirably rose to the expectation, creating his own niche in the international fora, particularly presenting papers at international conferences.
"He is dedicated in discharging his duties and responsibilities and also towards developing his intellectual capacity. He is an avid reader and this has benefited him in his endeavours.
"However, in making a name for himself, Raja Nazrin while keeping his eye on the rear view mirror, he should also be focusing on the long road ahead," said Rafiq.
As a prince, Rafiq said Raja Nazrin had a role to play in ensuring the customs and traditions of the Malay Rulers are preserved in the face of challenges in the fast-changing world.
On Raja Nazrin's wedding, he said: "The marriage is the next phase of his life. Being a highly educated and an accomplished person, this is one area he needs to focus.
"I am glad that he has finally decided to get married. His bride-to-be Zara is a lovely, friendly and an intellect. She is the right match for him.
"I hope he will enjoy his married life with his wife and the family that he will have," he added.