Arab Street and the Muslim Area of Singapore

Yesterday, I had a much shorter walk around Arab Street (the Muslim section of Singapore) than my previous day’s walk around China Town. I took a taxi to the Malay Heritage Centre, where I started my walk.

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Built in 1840 by Sultan Ali, this palace, named Istana Kampong Gelam, was once the royal seat of the Malay sultans in Singapore. The first Istana Kampong Gelam was originally a timber structure built on stilts. Its upper level was the main living and sleeping quarters of the house. The ground level was used as storage, work or service areas, or even a children’s play area. Now, beautifully restored to its former glory, the Malay Heritage Centre sits within the original well-preserved grounds. It is quite a showcase of Malay heritage and culture in Singapore.

Directly opposite to the Kampong (village) is th Sultan Gate – the entrance to the area of the Sultan Mosque.

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The original mosque was built in 1824 for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first sultan of Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, gave S$3,000 to the construction of a single-storey building with a double-tiered roof.

The present mosque was designed by Denis Santry from Swan and Maclaren, Singapore’s oldest architectural firm, and rebuilt in 1932. It’s design  caused  North Bridge Road to bend around the mosque as it was extended beyond Arab Street. Each of the onion-shaped domes is decorated with glass bottle ends, donated by lower-income Muslims during its construction so that all people, not just the rich, could mak a contribution.

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Around the corner, I found the Jamal Kazura Aromatics shop. This business opened in 1933 and I don’t think that the shop has changed in any way since. It is now one of Singapore’s well known home-grown perfume businesses. Mr Mohamed Jamal Kazura, the owner, started the business after learning about perfumery in Thailand and took over from his father and grandfather.

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The business sells a wide variety of products, namely perfumes, essential oils, perfume bottles, vase, diffusers and frankincense. The perfumes are known for being oil-based, lasting about 6-8 hours – much longer than alcohol-based ones. The perfume bottles bottle come inf different sizes and colours. The designs are limited edition and change every few months.

There were many shops along Arab street, all selling a variety of products. I was besieged by shop owners wanting to see me something as I walked past.

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I was interested too see that the fashion shops showed dresses without wearing an outer covering.  I guess the covering them would have defeated the whole purpose!

I passed a jewellery store and was going back to ask if I could take photo but by the time that I returned, there were a number of customers looking at some things. It looked like they were having a ‘girls day out’ and I thought that it actually made as better photo than an empty store.

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I couldn’t help but notice the difference in fashions between the locals and the tourists!

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The local streets were vibrant with activity. There were some restaurants / cafes with delicious smells coming from them. One of them was Ottoman Turkish Delights with Turkish sand coffee as its main attraction. This is a type of coffee brewing methodology that uses hot sand in a copper pan to brew the grounds. This is done without filtering the coffee, and coffee is usually placed in a container called a cezve. The cezve is swirled in the open-bottomed pot around 3-4 times before the coffee is completely brewed.

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I had a very pleasant time wandering around the streets and doing some ‘people watching’

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Back at the hospital in the afternoon, I found Jill sitting in her hospital chair watching TV. The CNN coverage of Royal events over the last week has kept her fully occupied. She was a bit sore after her Physio sessions in the gym and has a lot of bruising down her leg. However, she went off for another OT session in the afternoon and is getting a little stronger each day. She is now ale to transfer from the bed to her chair but it will still take some time before she can walk far enough to be able to fly home.

I found a Hawker Food Centre near my hotel and I stopped off for dinner on the way back. I had a delicious meal of crispy chicken with black pepper sauce that was washed down with a pint of Tiger Beer (all at a very impressive cost of just $17).

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3 thoughts on “Arab Street and the Muslim Area of Singapore

  1. Hi Bruce,

    I loved the way you just have to place something as innocuous as a packet of travel tissues at a seat , then go and get your meal at those hawker food centres. Good memories..

    It was then reserved, no questions asked. Wouldn’t happen in Melbourne ! lol !

    Jill sounds like she’s on the mend .

    Cheers
    John Wriedt

  2. What a day, the Dawn is breaking over Cabrini Malvern, looks a bit red, rain today? Have you found Newton’s Circus? When we were last S’pore it was a cluster of sheds, the whole iron roof and supports had been sent away for restoration. We had the Singapore chilli crab and the biggest prawns we had ever seen. I hope Jill’s transition from bed to chair keeps going and as she picks up, the improvement will happen more quickly..
    You’ll qualify as an A1 tourist guide, as usual, the armchair travel you send us on is wonderful.

  3. Good to hear that Jill is doing well, the post ob physio can be wearing but is essential.
    Have never heard of the Arab sector and Arab Street, it looks terrific, your photos are great.
    Hawkers food plus a pint of Tiger for $17 sounds good to me.Wish I was there.
    Stay well and hope Jill continues to make progress.

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