Wednesday, 4 November 2009
The Kampong Glam area of Singapore
For a different aspect of Singapore, take a wander around the Kampong Glam area of Singapore!
Nothing beats Arab Street for bazaar-style shopping with true ethnic character! Here, you can browse in delightful hole-in-the-wall shops, haggle to your hearts’ content and come away with the most enchanting trinkets and keepsakes at bargain prices.
The most visible items for sale are the baskets and other cane, straw, rattan and pandan leaf goods spilling out onto the pavements - from baby cradles to floor mats, hanging chairs to serving trays. These shops also stock interesting camel skin bags, cloisonne boxes, sewing kits, and fishing tackle items for both the amateur and the professional angler.
Arab Street is the centre of the Muslim community where it used to be the main selling place of Muslim men’s headgear (or songkok), the holy Quran, prayer mats and textiles. Today, the real glory of Kampong Glam and Arab Street is the textiles. Bales of gorgeous chiffon, silk, cotton georgette and other luxurious fabrics crowd the pavements, in rainbow hues and intensities.
The area is also renowned for batiks from Indonesia and Malaysia, exquisitely hand-made by the wax-resist dye method and typically sold in sarong lengths. Machine-printed batik with traditional designs is also available by the metre or in ready-made shorts, sundresses, ties, table linen and more.
Kampong Glam (or Gelam) literally means ‘village of eucalyptus’. Gelam is a eucalypt variety that grew nearby and was used in oils for medicines and for making boats watertight. Previously home to Singapore’s Malay aristocracy before colonial rule, Kampong Glam and Arab Street area remain a relaxing and interesting area to eat, explore and learn about the city’s Malay roots.
Under the Raffles Plan, Kampong Glam was set aside for the Sultan of Singapore and the Malay and Arab communities. This, and the number of important mosques in the district, means this area is also often referred to as the ‘Muslim Quarter’. While much of the Malay community later moved to Geylang and other suburbs, the area is still an important one for the community. It buzzes with activity during the fasting month of Ramadan, when many Muslims break their fast here, and buy food and traditional wares for the feast that follows, Hari Raya Puasa.
The area is a great place to eat and explore, tucked nicely away from much of the bustle of the central city. Stroll around its famous textile shops, and check out the stores selling fishing tackle, jewellery and rattan furniture. Later, stop by one of the cafes for tea and to smoke a shisha pipe.
Masjid Sultan (Malay for Sultan Mosque) is located at Muscat Street and North Bridge Road within the Kampong Glam district of Rochor Planning Area in Singapore. The mosque is considered one of the most important mosques in Singapore. The prayer hall and domes highlight the mosque's star features.