Saturday, September 5, 2009

Heritage Trail@Kampong Glam, where there's no shortage of colourful & intersting discoveries...

Kampong Glam was once a cosmopolitan settlement of Muslims from diverse ethnic background, fused by a common faith and a way of life. It was Singapore'e earliest Muslim Quarter.

'Kampong' means 'village/settlement' and 'Glam' species is a botany member of the jambu family and related to Australia Eucalyptus tree which is useful in treating almost every known ailment.

When Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819, he negotiated with a Sultan Hussein to set up a trading post for the British East India Company. They also agreed to set aside Kampong Glam as a settlement for the Malay-Muslims in Singapore. By the end of 1819, Sultan Hussien had built his palace in this area which was commonly referred to as Istana Kampong Glam. Today the 2-storey building has been restored and used as a Malay heritage Centre.

Raffles also contributed money to build the Sultan Mosque. In 1920s, Singapore Muslim community rebuild the mosque which was completed in 1928. Now this splendid Singapore's largest mosque can easily accommodate up to 5,000 worshippers at any one time.

The Malays of colonial Singapore and the Arabs enjoyed very good trading relationship that many Arabs came over to settle in Kampong Glam. While walking around Kampong Glam, look out for street named after Middle Eastern places like Arab Street, Busorrah Street, Baghdad Street, Muscat Street.

This Malay Historic District was gazetted as a conservation area in 1989. Most of the buildings here are shophouses, the majority of which have remained intact over the years, retaining with them the rich culture and history of yesteryears.

^ The Malay Heritage Centre - Besides creating awareness and appreciation among young Malay Singaporeans of their rich heritage, cultural and historical roots, the centre also anchor every Singaporean to understand better their own traditional values, customs and heritage, as the tide of modernizaton and globalization becomes stronger.

The Centre showcase on the preservation and growth of the Malay heritage, arts and culture. It aims to become a credible entity providing information and educational programs, promoting better understanding of the Malay people, and their arts and culutre.

^ "Gedung Kunning"/The Bendahara's house is on the left of the main entrance just outside the Istana compound. Because traditionally, it has always been painted with the royal colour - yellow, the locals called it "Gedung Kuning" (the yellow mansion). Built in the same period as the palace, the mansion was occupied by Sultan's descendants and and later sold to a local Javanese merchant. Today "Gedung Kunning" has been converted into a restaurant serving Malay cuisine.

^ Masjid Sultan or Sultan Mosque at Muscat Street is the key building in Kampong Glam. It is the largest mosque in Singapore with the capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 Muslims in congregational prayers. Built in 1928, the mosque features a massive golden dome and is one of Singapore's most imposing religious institutions. The mosque is a blend of classical and Persian style which brings out the magnificence of the era of colonial architecture.

Lying in the shadow of the Sultan Mosque and well shaded by 2 rows of palm trees, Bussorah Mall has been converted into a pedestrain zone since 1972. It is flanked by a row of simple early style shophouses on one side and, on the other side, by late style shophouses with elaborated facade ornamentations. These shophouses have been beautifully restored to their original charm. Today, they house interesting shops and restaurants offering a variety of products.

Nothing beats Arab Street for bazaar-style shopping with true ethnic character! The goods spill onto the pavements, anything from rattan cane, straw and palm leaf wooven goods, floor mats, carpets to serving trays and hanging chairs, baby cradles, pets baskets and even camel-skin briefcases.

Glittery and lavish fashion items abound like the finest lace, sparkling semi-precious stones, ostrich feathers, iron-on diamantes, gold thread, georgette, chiffon, silk, taffeta and many other exotic textiles. Traditional Malay baju kurung, songkok, tudung, kebaya and Muslim pararphernalia can also be found here.


^ Check out Singapore's narrowest street - Haji Lane, barely the width of 2 cars! There are a few cafes in this sleepy street.

^ Baghdad and Pahang Streets - you can find at least half a dozen of Arabic cafes along these 2 streets offering Middle East food and drinks. Baghdad Street is a favourite haunt of taxi drivers who throng through a hole-in-the wall, nondescript, unnamed Sarabat stall for reputably Singapore's best and cheapest teh tarik (literally means pull tea!)

^ You may spot people smoking sheesha which is a traditional Arabian water pipe filled with tabacco and mixed with a sweet flaout such as mint or cherry.

^ Kandahar Street - Here you can find exceptionally ornate late style pre-war shophouses, decorated with architectural details and features like string courses, dentils and bouquets. These building exhibit a maronious mix of Mala and Chinese architectural influnces.

^ Unit no. 20, the only unit in the area with a special pop-out balcony.

^ Did you know Sultan Gate used to be called 'da tie jie' (blacksmith street in Chinese) by the locals for its concentration of blacksmith shops?

Down at 39 Sultan Gate, Lee Loy Hin blacksmith shop is the only shop which survived the grind of time at Kampong Glam, but not for long. Lee Ah Huat inherited the shop from his father and has been working in Kampong Glam for more than 50 years. On 16/12/2006, a fire broke out at Sultan Gate and destroyed 4 shophouses. Lee Loy Hin blacksmith shop was one of them. Till now, nobody knows if Ah Huat can continue this vanishing trade left for him by his father.

^ No. 28 to 32 Aliwal Street - former Chong Chung and Chong Pun schools. These former Chinese schools were built in 1938 with the support of Haw Par Brothers. They were popular with the Chinese community during those days. The sites are now occupied by No. 1 Costumes Costumes. If you are looking for fancy party costumes, check out at this place.

^ Running parallel to the seashore, Beach Road was a fashionable residential area until the 1870s and 1880s when the smaller steets in the area were laid out. Land was later reclaimed to build Nicoll Highway and later further reclaimed for East Coast Parkway, Marina Square and Suntec City. Today, the concentration of fishing accessory shops here is a haunt for fishing enthusiasts and harks back to its history.

^ Situated at No. 111 Jalan Sultan, the Alsagoff Arab School, built in 1912, was named after Syed Ahmad Alsagoff, a wealthy Arab merchant and philanthropist who was very influential in Singapore's early colonial days. It was Singapore's first Muslim school.

^ Tuck into yummy Malay delights at North Bridge Road

Savour authentic Malay food like sambal goreng, tahu telur, ayam percik, ikan panggang, etc .

^ Situated at 4001 Beach Road, Masjid Hajjah Fatimah is also known as "Rochor Mosque". This elegant mosque was founded by Hajjah Fatimah, a wealthy Malaccan Malay lady who married a Bugis merchant trader. To order to orientate it towards Mecca, it sits with a square building footprint at a skewed angle within a rectangular site. The mosque has a single prominent octagonal minaret shaped like a tower. This mosque was gazetted a National Monument in mid 1973.

^ Masjid Malabar, 471 Victoria Street is also known as the Golden Dome Mosque. This is the only Mosque in Singapore which is fully managed by the Malabar Muslim Community. This is the place where all our Malabar Muslims gather during Fridays, Aidil Fitri, Aidil Adha or any other major functions.


Selemat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all Muslims !!!

(20 Sep 2009)

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