Kampong Glam is one of Singapore’s three major ethnic and cultural enclaves, the other two being Chinatown and Little India. Kampong Glam is often referred to as Singapore’s Muslim Quarter, largely because of the gleaming Sultan Mosque and the area’s rich history.
Originally a small fishing village on the Rocher River, Kampong Glam takes its name from the Malay word for village (kampong) and a type of tree (gelam) that grew abundantly in the area in the past.
The area was designated to the Malay sultan and other members of the Muslim community by Sir Stamford Raffles when Singapore was a relatively young country. An ethnic enclave with a strong Malay-Arab flavour, it was formerly home to Singapore’s Malay aristocracy. It is today home to a number of delights, and an interesting part of the country to spend time getting to know. Restored and refurbished, you can get a sense of how the area was in times gone by.
Some highlights of Kampong Glam include:
One of the most significant mosques in Singapore, Sultan Mosque (Masjid Sultan) dates back to the 1920s. An impressive sight, it is located on the site of an older mosque. A National Monument, the grand and beautiful building is topped with large golden domes. As well as being a major place of worship and centre of Islamic learning, it is also a very popular tourist destination.
Malay Heritage Centre
Once home to the Malay royal family and previously known as the Sultan’s Palace, the Malay Heritage Centre is a top spot for anyone who wants to know more about the culture, heritage, and history in Singapore. Home to numerous exhibits and displays, the large museum sits in beautiful grounds. The complex is also home to the Yellow Mansion. Also known as Gedung Kuning and Bendahara House, it is an attractive vision of yellow, the traditional colour of Malay royalty. Today a high class restaurant, it dates back to the 1860s and was previously owned by Sultan Hussein’s grandson.
There are many preserved shop houses in Kampong Glam, many home to cafes, shops, art galleries, and other businesses today. Take a stroll along roads like Arab Street, Bussorah Street, and Baghdad Street and admire the architecture.
Although many have now been converted for other uses, Kamping Glam is still home to a number of traditional blacksmith shops. Take a peek inside those that are still in use and watch skilled professionals at work.
Haji Lane is a popular place for lovers of shopping, with an exciting array of boutiques and colourful fabric stores lining the edges of the lively street. Other great buys include ornate Persian rugs and fragrances. Pick up some traditional clothing, browse and window shop, and call into one of the quaint cafes for a drink and to try a shisha pipe.
Kampong Glam is a great place to sample a tasty assortment of Islamic, Malay, and Arabic cuisine. Full of flavour and, more often than not, Halal, you’ll find a good selection of restaurants and cafes that cater to varying tastes and budgets. Dishes to try include kuih and nasi padang.
Try and visit Kampong Glam in the evenings during Ramadan, or during one of the important Islamic festivals for even more of an exciting time.