Arab Street lies between Victoria Street and Beach Road in the Kampong Glam area, and is located in the Rochore Planning Area of the Central Region in Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles designated the Kampong Glam area as the most appropriate area for Arabs in Singapore to live. Other streets nearby are also named after Arabian cities. Arab street is in the centre of the original Muslim section of town, famed for its speciality shops, Muslim restaurants and more. For me personally, it is much more interesting than Chinatown or little Italy and less touristy. I fell totally in love with the little boutiques, cafés and bars and could have stayed there for hours! But make sure to have plenty of time when strolling through the little alleys and take loads of water with you, since it’s incredibly hot (as you can tell by my horrible headshots ;-)).
Arab Street was a spine for transportation in the “Arab Kampong” or “Muslim Quarter” drawn up in Sir Stamford Raffles’ Town Plan of 1822. By 1824, Arab Street was laid. The area saw residents who were Malays or other Muslims comprising Arabs, Indians, Bugis, Boyanese and Javanese. Arab Street served as the “town centre” and became the main shopping street and trading centre of activities in this Muslim quarter. Several fires have gutted Arab Street since the early days, and a great fire of 14 January 1889, caused much damage.
Arab Street today is still a key Muslim centre in Singapore. All walks of life gather here to savour the culture, colour and cuisine. Many of Singapore’s “first generation” shophouses of squat two-storey buildings, with one or two windows on the upper floor facade, are found here on Arab Street. Each block of these shophouses are 135 m (35 shophouses) long and 8 m deep. Here amidst the heady smells of Arab Street, were import-export businesses, wholesale and retail textile merchants, all catering to the needs of the various ethnic Muslim communities settled here although it became popular with other Singaporeans and even foreigners. Today, the shops sell jewellery, sweet perfumes, carpets, curio, rattan and other basketware, preserved food and other delicacies; spices, flower-shops, Muslim restaurants, and money-changers too. Travel agents here specialise in the travel needs of Muslim pilgrims heading for Mecca.
On 7 July 1989, Kampong Glam was gazetted a conservation area by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Arab Street comes under this conservation area. In 1993/1994 the Arab Street/Baghdad Street/Bussorah Street area came under the URA’s conservation pilot project.
Chinese names: In Hokkien, Jiau-a koi, or in Cantonese, Yau-wa kai means “Javanese Street” (the Chinese identified them as chief inhabitants of the street).
Tamil name: Pukadei Sadakku means “Street of the flower shops”.
photo credentials: V’s World