Monday, December 21, 2009

Arab Quarter


It is rather surprising to learn that the area known as the Arab Quarter has Singapore's most bohemian street, Haji Lane. Lined up along this small alleyway are colorfully painted (often with graffiti) old houses converted into boutiques and cafes (photos 01-04 and 10). My favorite is Going Om (63 Haji Lane), a bohemian cafe playing cosy music with felt carpets and low tables to sit down by taking off shoes. The entrance is decorated with potted plants to shield the cafe away from the outside world (photo 09). The atmosphere is perfect. Only if they served proper mint tea.

Arab Street (photo 05), one block northeast from Haji Lane, is halfway between bohemianism and more traditional Islam with beautiful displays in a series of silk dress shops (photo 06) along this street, which also sees halal Swedish cafe named Fika, which does not appear to serve kanelbulle (Sweden's signature cafe bun).

London has several Muslim immigrant quarters, but as far as I remember, none of them have any contemporary twists like these in Singapore's Arab Quarter. Where does the difference come from?

Centered in the Arab Quarter is the Sultan Mosque (photo 07) whose illuminated view at night is beautiful:

Bussorah Street, the street leading to the Sultan Mosque, is a bit touristy. Sleepy's Sam, an apparently popular budget backpacker hotel, is located here. Its presence is noticeable because lazy-looking Westerners, chatting in front of the hotel, are so out of place.

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