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My Escapes Singapore Return to "Lion City" Arab Street

Arab Street

May 30, 2014
May 12, 2015

I believe that Singapore's best urban assets are its ethnic neighbourhood.
Arab Street is one of them - definitely a place not to miss out on. More than "just a street", it's a historic Muslim neighbourhood.

Because my first Singapore trip hasn't allowed me to visit this place, I returned here after Malaysia.

This is my walkaround guide about Arab Street, which is found in the Kampong Glam district...

Arab Street and Parkview Square

Splendid view of the Masjid Sultan mosque with the Parkview Square in the background

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To get there, I took the MRT to Bugis Junction station, which is essentially located at the edge of Arab Street.

Actually, the place called Arab Street is a scenic historic neighbourhood around the street with the same name.

It's not just an Arab ethnic quarter, but a Muslim quarter in general, but of course, not exclusively.

This neighbourhood is ethnically diverse within itself with Tamil, Javanese, Bugis, Malay communities besides the Arabs living there.

Visually - my few hours-long exploration of Arab Street has lead me to the conclusion that Tamils, Malays are the most numerous here (at least, on that day, this is what I saw...).

The photo on the left depicts the golden cupola and minaret of the prominent mosque of this neighbourhood: the Masjid Sultan, which is also one of my favourite buildings in "Lion City", along with the imposing brown skyscraper seen in the background (called Parkview Square).

(...if you checked my architecture-related post based on my experiences gathered on my first trip, you know why I consider the Parkview Square building special).


The two buildings together and the colourful shop houses lining up again result in that typical Singaporean (visual) contrast, which that's so abundant on the entire tiny island country.

I concluded that although the contrasts in Singapore usually aren't mild, they aren't bothering at all. Considering the cultural context and the nuances and combinations of colours, they are even beautiful.

Colourful shop houses

Scenic indeed, but very quiet

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Just like on my first night time stroll in Chinatown, as I was walking on the streets here, I've found myself in the middle of a ghost-townish environment.

Arab Street was also nice and scenic, but it as just too quiet... a few cars passed by, but almost no shops were open, almost no-one else was walking on the streets(!).

Colourful windows

The fine decorations on these facades are a delicacy to architecture fans

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Vast areas of this quarter seemed deserted. Closed doors, closed windows, but everything looked almost as good as new - as if the buildings were erected yesterday.

But the ghost town-ish museum feel was there... just like in Chinatown. There was barely any sign of life. But just a short walk further was Bugis Junction, bursting with shops, overflowing with crowds...

Chinese building

Chinese inscriptions are almost everywhere...

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I don't know why it felt so deserted. Perhaps the population has moved out to more modern residential areas. Perhaps the major shopping malls and the modern downtown have drained the clients away from the merchants based here?

I do not know...

White building

This white building stood out from all the rest...

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Thankfully, the sun wasn't strong this time, its rays were dimmed by clouds. I didn't have to for cover.

In fact, rain came pouring down shortly after my Arab Street visiting experience.
These tropical rains usually don't bring cool winds, nor do they reduce the temperatures. Instead, the air becomes damp, heavy to breathe and the thick rain hinders visibility...

Green building

Green shop house

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My stroll on the streets was enjoyable, indeed, I had a great time taking photos.

Light rain has started pouring down and for a short while I had to step into a shop in order to escape getting wet... There are several interesting little shops in the immediate vicinity of the Masjid Sultan Mosque (of course, they were open).


Shop houses in delicious colours

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Now, let's see a few more photos and information about the Masjid Sultan Mosque...

You will find it at Muscat Street and North Bridge Road.

This mosque is one of Singapore's main religious attractions and it clearly stands out in the area, even dominating the views. You can't miss it.

Masjid Sultan behind palms

The Masjid Sultan behind palms... it's a great place for buying souvenirs

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The Masjid Sultan was built at the order of Sultan Hussain (Hussein Shah of Johor), at the time when he was the Sultan of Johor and Singapore - in 1826, with funds received from the East India Company.

At the time of this mosque's construction, the Kampong Glam area had been allocated to the Muslims of Singapore by the British Colonialists.

Golden cupola mosque

The mosque with the golden cupola in all its splendour...

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Most of these Muslims originated from the Riau Islands, Sumatra and Malacca.

The shops in front of the mosque were open (lucky me), so I was able to escape the pouring rain (which probably lasted 30-45 minutes or so, with some interruptions).

Masjid Sultan from below

The mosque radiates a certain majestic elegance

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The shops around the mosque are ideal for buying souvernirs, but I've found the prices a bit high...

I bought myself a small Merlion statue and a Singapore flag fridge magnet, besides a few postcards.

Before heading out from the Arab Street area, I proceeded to visit several other remaining hotspots in the neighbourhood.

Beautiful Arab Street, Singapore

Yet another quiet scenic street - again, with the golden cupola of the mosque

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So, I came across the Masjid Malabar (see photo below), also known as Malabar Muslim Jama-Ath (in Malaysian).

A blue mosque, at the junction between Sultan Street and Victoria Street.

Constructed in 1962, it was intended for the Malabar Muslims, whi originate from Keala in India.

Masjid Malabar

The blue Masjid Malabar is the mosque of the Malabar Muslims

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No trip to Singapore is complete without visiting Arab Street. Put it on your top list of places to see, I certainly would.

One thing I also have to mention is that there were a number of jewelry stores in the area... I was only window-shopping, of course.

Elephant statue

Elephant statue

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The elephant statue that you see on the right side, I came across at a building's entrance in the Arab street area. Similar embellishments, ornaments are rather wide-spread in Singapore.

After Arab Street I headed back to Bugis Junction and this time I really had to put the pedal to the running, because a rain shower exploded.

Only a few drops hit their target, so I managed to escape almost completely dry and head by MRT to my next destination: Orchard Road.

Escape Hunter

About the Author:

Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...


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