Kampong Gelam and Arab Street
Kampong Gelam, Singapore © WolfgangSladkowski
Kampong Gelam is said to have taken its name from the Gelam tribe of sea gypsies who lived in the original Malay village southwest of the Rochor River. Sir Stamford Raffles allotted the area as an ethnic enclave to the Muslim population and it became the focal point for Arab trade and traditional Malay culture in Singapore. Baghdad Street, Muscat Street and Haji Lane resonate with tradition as cane, straw, rattan and pandan leaf goods spill out onto the streets. The variety of fabrics flowing onto the pavements of Arab Street include chiffon, silk, cotton georgette and the batiks of Indonesia and Malaysia. Located between Kandahar and Aliwal streets is the Istana Kampong Gelam. It was built as the royal palace of Sultan Ali Iskandar Shah, the son of Sultan Hussein, who negotiated the handover of Singapore to Britain. The government recently took possession of the building with plans to transform it into a Malay heritage museum. Another significant building in the area is the Sultan Mosque. The glistening necks of the domes are decorated with the bases of thousands of glass bottles. It is a wonderful district to stroll through, especially in the morning or the evening.
Transport: The Arab Quarter is a 10-minute walk from Bencoolen Street. Take bus 7 from Orchard Road to Victoria Street, if commuting by MRT, stop at Bugis