In this week’s installment of Singapore Cultural Gems Series, we will be virtually heading to Kampung Glam – located in the central area of Singapore. This area was designated to the Malay Muslims and the Arabs settlers back during the time of the British’s control of the island. This thriving area got its Malay name, which means “Glam Village” in English, due to the many “Glam” trees that grew during that period of time.
Kampung Glam started out as a fishing village, which over time blossomed into the area that housed the Sultan of Singapore, Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah. Today, it is a thriving area of Singapore, which is frequented by a variety of groups – from young hipsters to devout Muslims.
The Kampung Glam area is made up of a few rows of streets, all next to each other. Amongst these streets are iconic ones, such as Arab Street, Haji Lane and Bussorah Street. For different groups of people, these streets are iconic for different reasons. Within these narrow lanes, you will be able to find shops selling carpets, exquisite materials, accessories, local designers works, art cafes and many more different types of shops.
You will find the young adult crowd hanging around the area in the afternoons, meandering through the lanes into the small shops to get hold of a vintage dress or some rare finds in the boutiques. The older ladies will usually be seen bargaining with vendors selling materials such as French laces, intricate silk fabrics and the likes. It is quite an interesting sight to see this area becoming a melting pot of ages, races and religion rather than the segregated area it was intended to be back in the 1800s.
While you are exploring this quaint area, don’t be surprised when you hear the loud call of prayer for the Muslim community, as within Kampung Glam is the oldest mosque in Singapore – Masjid Sultan. The mosque has been standing in its spot since the 1920s and had been raised as a collaboration between the rich and the poor of that era. Pay close attention to the iconic gold dome as this dome is perched on entirely glass bottles. This was due to the fact that the poor community at that time could not afford to raise funds, so they contributed glass bottles to help bring up the structure!
In Kampung Glam, you will also see the palace, which once housed the Sultan of Singapore. This structure has been re-conceptualized into a museum called the Malay Heritage Centre, which features interesting tidbits about the Malay Muslim community. The building has undergone restoration works to maintain its external façade.
If you are hungry while you are exploring this gem of an area, you will see that food is aplenty! Despite it being a small area, you will be spoilt for choice in your food selection as Kampung Glam offers you cuisines from Malay dishes, to Indonesian, to Thai and the popular Middle Eastern cuisines, which can be divided further into Moroccan food, Turkish food and Persian food, amongst others.
By night, Kampung Glam undergoes a transformation from an area of shopping and history to one that exudes a relaxing vibe, as crowds begin to swell in the area, flocking to the watering holes and shisha joints. Many locals and foreigners head to the Kampung Glam area for a drink at the bars located along the outer side of the roads or to the many shisha joints within the area itself. People spend hours in this area, to catch up with friends and just relax, after a long day at work. Over the weekend, you’ll find the crowd there until almost 3am!
Depending on what you’d like to get out of this area – be it a quick shopping trip or a long chill out session – Kampung Glam is one area of Singapore that should not be missed and should at least be visited once while you are in Singapore. The likelihood of you being drawn back to this gem is quite high, as the rustic charm of this place will most likely win you over in comparison to a day of jostling with the crowd in populous areas such as Orchard Road or City Hall.