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, wrapping them in the mystical veil 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 relax 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.

In 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 their identities and making the world a better place.

Louvre Abu dhabi, a place beyond imagination

UAE government came out with the brilliant idea of opening a replica of the most famous museum of the world, Louvre, right in the middle of the desert. With a final cost of 2 billion dollars and 24.000 square meters in size, Abu dhabi invites the art passionate from all over the world to visit the largest and the most luxurious art museum ever built in the Arabian peninsula.
The museum’s design combine the elegance of the past with the luxury of the present, representing a floating dome with an web pattern which allows the sun to filter inside the inner courtyard, resembling rays of sunlight passing through date palm leaves in an oasis.

Taking advantage of my friend’s visit in town, I decided to surprise them, spending the weekend not in a coffee shop or a mall but in the middle of impressive masterpieces of contemporary and modern design, divided chronologically from prehistory to the present in 12 art galleries.

“Everything you imagine is real”~Picasso

After skipping the line with our online tickets (60dh per person) we step on the “world stone carpet” covering the floor of the first Art gallery, chamber which illustrate the great importance that humanity always showed to the most cruel stage of existance: Death.

Gold funerary masks, houses of the dead and other burial objects were used by the mankind since the oldest time trying to obtain their immortality when faced with death.
Today, after more than 3000 years, the humans seems to not have changed much, still trying to buy their after life comfort either by building imposing graves or by taking with them gold coins or other objects which will guarantee the necessary bribe for what may come after life.

“Does gold confer eternal life liberating our existence from the finite realm? Gold glows in the gloom of tombs but only bones have been found behind these masks.”

The greatest symbolism regarding the after life is found with no doubt in the ancient Egyptian culture were dead bodies were mummified and prepared for their journey to the afterworld, trip considered full of dangers.
Henuttawy(950-900BC), one of the Egyptian queens found her eternal peace in a beautiful sarcophagi, imprinted with symbols and holy decorations which may have not confer her immortality but definitely brought her lot of fame and admirers under the roof of the Louvre museum.

The great statues of Ramses II and the stale of Tutankhamun representing his offerings to the god Osiris are attracting the visitors like a magnet captivating with their mystery and customs even the most advanced civilization of the modern world.

~Ramses II~

~Stale of Tutankamun~~Osiris, God of the underworld~

“The world doesnt make any sense so why should I paint pictures that do?”~Picasso

Leaving the land of dead behind we approach the Victorian era when drama was a developing form of art and the great artists maintained their own “immortality” over the time, through their great creations.
One of the most admired painting covering the walls of the Louvre brings a smile on the visitors face when associated with the famous comedy show “Mister Bean” in which Whistler’s mother lost her face in a terrible incident.

Now the atmosphere inside of the museum is more relaxed as we are stepping inside the Modern art gallery much more abstract but closer to our understanding. Let’s be honest, 90% of the Louvre visitors are young people with no clue about art but with a high enthusiasm in discovering new things and shoot some great instagram pictures.

“There is only one difference between art and science. In science, the Universe is in control. In Art, you are.” Harry Kroto, Nobel prize in chemistry

Distancing themselves from the academic conventions, the modern artists implemented a more creative approach to express their artistic view over the life, using powerful mix of colors and abstract patterns. The talent is being replaced by creativity and the result may be disappointing for the traditional art critics but this form of art is getting more and more popularity among the young population being more affordable than any Picasso or Rembrandt and easier to assimilate.
I have no clue what the artists were trying to recreate in those modern paintings but my “professional eye” suggest that we are talking about….
• a great DNA sample from a mosquito battlefield
• a couple sitting naked on a bench on a first date
• a cricket playing his ballad in a metro station
• a group of drunk aliens taking a selfie

My friends found another funny meanings for each painting and laughing out loud we are moving forward to the main point of attraction, “The fountain of light”. The chandelier was created in 2016 by the artist Ai Weiwei from China using steel and glass crystals.
Oh God, It would look so good in my living room even though I doubt the authenticity of Chinese stones (hey Weiwei, I was just kidding).
We are rushing towards the inner courtyard where warm rays of winter sun are penetrating the web ceiling, creating one of the most beautiful painting of all, a game of shadows and rain of light. Since the opening, the visitors tried to find the most appropriate description for the 180 meters canopy which covers the museum; some would say it resemble a dome, a cupola, a space frame or even a bird nest while others would find a more powerful meanings, “a fingerprint which touches water”.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life”~Picasso

We end up this amazing visit with a photoshoot session outside of the museum, in the beautiful park with a magnetic view over the city.
Everything about Lovre impress; from the imposing architecture created by Jean Nouvel, the extensive collection of mix culture, the cocktail of ancient and modern believes until the perfect location chosen right in the middle of an artificial island, surrounded by sea, palm trees and modern skyscrapers.
The perfect way to purify your mind and soul!