Arab heritage in the heart of Singapore

I am back to Singapore for the 3rd time this month, ready to follow up with my sightseeing plan even though I know already that will be difficult to find a colleague ready to join my new adventure.

Exactly how I predicted, once I disclosed my little secret, my work mates start laughing and nobody seemed to take me seriously enough: “Arab street? You came all this way to see the Arab street? Are you not tired of arabs?”
I decided to ignore the sarcastic comments and wearing my pink dress that I brought special for this occasion I am rushing down to the lobby excited to start a day full of colors and creativity.
Surprisingly, on the last moment three other colleagues showed interested in my plan, curious or maybe out of ideas while in Singapore, waiting for me downstairs, ready to discover a culture so familiar to them but placed in a different context, in the heart of the Asian world.

Arab quarter located in the heart of Singapore

First thing that welcomes us once we step out of the taxi is the beautiful Masjid Sultan Mosque, which gives the place a magical touch.

A bunch of muslims (arabs, turks, indians and singaporian) are gathered outside of the mosque waiting for the daily prayer, united not by nationality, appearance nor even by the same language but by the common beliefs and divinity.
For the tourists, the 200 years old mosque framed by palm trees impress by its size and beautiful design, taking them in the mystical journey of middle eastern tales of Scheherazade, Aladdin and other fictional characters.

The shops around the mosque display a wide variety of brightly colored fabrics and Persian carpets but despite the fairy tales, the rugs dont seems to master any supernatural powers and disappointed I am forced to continue my journey by feet and not floating around on top of a magical carpet.

In contrast with the other areas of Singapore, the Arab neighborhood seems a little bit messy and unattended with hundred waste bins aligned on the tiny colorful streets and beggars trying to win some coins so essential for survival.
Shocking discovery for a country where chewing gum or smoking on the street is totally prohibited and the economy its in full blossom.

Two of my colleagues returned to the hotel immediately, probably regreting their decision to accompany me in a place which cant compete with the fame of the marvelous Marina Bay sands and its gardens, being rarely included in the “must see” list of the regular tourists.

I am not giving up just yet, having a little bit more sense of adventure and curiosity, I continue my sightseeing with the graffitis covering the walls of restaurants and shops, the main point of attractions and the perfect background for some good Instagram pictures.

Fancy manicure, a place to “die for” or just a fresh fish in the Mad sailors restaurant? That’s the perfect place!

Buy me coffee…Make me coffee…Be coffee

By far my favorite art mural is a huge creation hidden somewhere behind a parking lot, describing a busy day of an Arabic coffee shop and the perfect formula used to create the aromatic liquid which my life depends on a daily basis.

Western food and beers on Arab territory

Not long after, we stop for a quick dinner and I have a hard time choosing something from the menu, Singaporean food being the last on my preference list, always tasteless, weird and overpriced. I exhale relaxed when I find few western options and I order the buffalo chicken wings but I am about to regret my choice with the first bite, the wings being covered not in a buffalo sauce but with a tick layer of bbq ketchup.
All the restaurants in the area are serving alcohol which is a little bit surprising being the fact that we are on an Arab “territory” where the alcohol is considered “haram” (big sin). I am not complaining thought and without thinking twice I am ordering a Corona to help me extinguish the unpleasant taste of my meal.

On the other side of the road, beautiful decorated restaurants with oriental motifs are inviting the costumers to taste delicious arabic and turkish delights and I can never say NO to a warm, creamy plate of Kunafeh and a strong black tea.

Singapore, the international hub of love, respect and acceptance

Singapore managed to develop one of the most harmonious society of the world, where people with different nationality, religion and belifs have learned to live in peace, exchange customs, ideas and learn from one another.
Little India and China town are just few steps away from the Arab quarter and once again this beautiful open minded country is proving that acceptance and integration between different comunities strengthens personal identities, making the world a better place.

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