Streets of Sultangate

Sultan Arts Village

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Sultan Arts Village
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Sultan Arts Village

It is quiet today, a lazy Thursday afternoon, but I soon realise that beneath the calm exterior of Sultan Art Village lies a buzzing arts scene full of life and artistic vision. As I walk along the streets, my eyes continually stray towards splashes of colour against otherwise monotone walls. The murals are fascinating works of art, and, even as my eyes are continually distracted by bursts of colours, I can hear the gentle tinkling of windchimes draped in front of a quaint shop, with the distant birdsong lingering around the edges of my consciousness.

Walk further along, and I stumble upon some clay art pieces sitting proudly outside a gallery. Distant music floats languidly through a crack in the door, and somehow, in its own way, the musical notes complement the presence of the art pieces outside. In fact, as I soon came to realise, it complements the presence of Sultan Village as a whole.

Sultan Art Village sits next to the last Istana, currently known as the Malay Heritage Centre. This is an oasis of peace. As the sunlight seeps through the palm trees, I catch a glimpse of an exquisite vision of a star bursting forth from the leaves, and I feel blessed to be able to experience that single moment of beauty. But don’t leave yet; take a soft breath before wandering along the little side streets and back alleys. Vintage items are strewn haphazardly here and there. Beside a dusty red punching bag, little gnomes line window sills, and below that sits an old record player that still holds the promise of music. Rusty bicycles line the street, and further away sits a strange metal contraption that I can’t quite decipher, but that’s okay.

It is an item of mystery to be unravelled, much like the rest of this place. These scenes tell the story of Sultan Art Village; a story that suggests further secrets and greater mysteries. I am drawn into the easy rhythm of this place. Breathing once, twice, I close my eyes and simply exist in the present. In that moment, Sultan Art Village sings of freedom.

Written by : Stephanie Heng

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HAJI LANE

My friends and I used to head over to Haji Lane after exams for much needed therapy sessions. An eclectic mix of the whimsical and passionate, Haji Lane has always possessed a certain charm.

As I stroll through Haji Lane, I have constantly been overcome by a sense of calmness, tranquillity, and strangely, acceptance. A sense of freedom is the lifeblood of this place.

Vibrant colours co-exist alongside muted pastel shop fronts; pulsating dance beats blends in with the breezy indie music. Passers-by drift along the street, stopping whenever they fancy or to pose for insta-worthy shots against the colourful backdrop.

In the 60s and 70s, the area provided lodging for poor Malay families, and gave shelter to pilgrims on their annual pilgrimage ‘haj’ to Mecca. This history of giving and hospitality is perhaps still reflected in the particularly laidback and soothing charm of this area, that has birthed a vibrant and close-knit community. One Kampong Gelam businesses gather for iftar, to break their daily Ramadan fast together. Shopkeepers greet each other with an easy familiarity, while newcomers are welcomed heartily into the family.

I was talking to the team of Sultan Gate, and what really struck me was how these individuals truly believe in the power of arts, music, food, and culture to transform lives. In fact, they view these passions as a way of being, and essential to life itself. To be able to find a passion and devote yourself fully to it, is something that I personally have yet to discover. Perhaps that is why I find myself continually wandering towards Haji Lane throughout the years. For me, Haji Lane is home to the bold and the beautiful, the unique and exceptional; it is the sweet abode of those individuals who truly dare to live. And one day, I hope I will be one of them.

Written by : Stephanie Heng

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BUSSORAH STREET

Originally called “Sultan Road”, Bussorah Street is one of the most famous streets in Kampong Gelam - SultanGate area, drawing many tourists who flock to see the noteworthy Sultan Mosque. In the past, Bussorah Street was known as Kampong Haji (Pilgrim Village), as it was where many pilgrims undertaking the haji to mecca would gather. Along and around this street, there would be many sheikh haji, pious men known for their knowledge of the haj, who would help with their preparations.

Today, Bussorah Street is lined with Middle Eastern restaurants, tourist shops, and other interesting little shops (such as Lickety, Wardah Books, Konditori Bakery). By day, it is filled with tourists keen to learn more about Malay culture. However, by night, this becomes an entirely different area.

In the evening, the droning peaceful prayer calls resound through the area as muslims make their way to Sultan Mosque to pray. During the period of Ramadan, just past 7pm, a temporary lull settles over the community. Time halts as everyone settles down to eat and drink in the company of friends and family. A flurry of activity surrounds the food bazaar, with people queueing up to the fragrant aroma of delicious foods.

And as I stroll through Bussorah Street taking in all these sights, eating my lavender-honey ice cream beneath the moonlight, I am overcome by an immeasurable sense of peace.

Written by : Stephanie Heng

Baghdad Street

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BAGHDAD STREET

The best Teh Tarik (local Indian tea) can be found at Baghdad Street ! Yes, that’s true ! The street is very much well-known by the locals for the Sarabat Stall and cheap, no frills eating outlet, Kampong Gelam Café. Another iconic shop would be Jamal Kazura Aromatics, established since 1933, situated at the junction of Baghdad Street and Bussorah Mall.

TThe street name reflects the Arabic influence in Kampong Gelam but perhaps not many people are aware that it was once known as Kampong Intan as it was the place where diamonds and precious stones were traded.The road closure that takes place from Friday afternoon onwards and over the weekend, has attracted more people to take a stroll down the street while checking out the shops and restaurants nearby. Fun-filled activities like flea market and street performances are also being carried out for visitors to enjoy.

In the evening, the droning peaceful prayer calls resound through the area as muslims make their way to Sultan Mosque to pray. During the period of Ramadan, just past 7pm, a temporary lull settles over the community. Time halts as everyone settles down to eat and drink in the company of friends and family. A flurry of activity surrounds the food bazaar, with people queueing up to the fragrant aroma of delicious foods.

Kandahar Street

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KANDAHAR STREET

Kandahar Street used to be the place to go to during the fasting month of Ramadhan for the array of wholesome food sold by pop-up stall along the bustling road.

Fast forward to present day, Kandahar Street is still a heaven for food lovers. Restaurants and cafes lined up the row of shophouses – a mix match of traditional and hipster, east and west. Among others, there are Rumah Makan Minang – authentic Indonesian food, Peppercorn – specialises in Chinese cuisine from Beijing, Shanghai and Sichuan region, Maison Ikkoku – Japanese Bar & Restaurant, Tish Tash Tosh – east fusion food, Sanobar Gila Gula– funky desserts and the famous Rich & Good Cake Shop – various flavoured old-school Swiss Roll for all occasions.

Unlike Haji Lane, Kandahar Street gives the diners an option for a cozier, more family-friendly atmosphere for dinner and supper A nearby park adds to the tranquillity of the place.

Muscat Street

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Muscat Street dwellers

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MUSCAT STREET

Muscat Street was named after Muscat, the capital of Sultanate of Oman, a country situated north of the Arabian Sea. With the iconic Sultan Mosque located here, naturally this street is one of the more well-known locations in Kampong Gelam, both to the tourists and locals alike.

The Muscat Street make-over which was completed in November 2012, is a collaboration between Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Muscat Municipality of Oman. The highlight of the project is the beautiful granite arches with ornate Omani carvings which were built at both ends of the street. The murals along one end, depict maritime stories of the trades between the two countries and the glorious seafaring past of the sultanate.

A trading hub in 1800s to early 1900s, Muscat Street was always buzzing with traders doing their dealings as well as devotees frequenting the mosque for their daily prayers. Till today, the street, which has mostly been turned into a pedestrian walkway, is still reverberating.

Jalan Kledek

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Jalan Kledek

Visitors to Jalan Kledek should check out Vintage Cameras Museum. There are over 1000 cameras that you can look at and you can actually pick up one or two to ‘play’ with. A must-visit place for photography enthusiasts.

There’s also a halal Thai restaurant along this street that you can go to after spending long hours at the museum !

Jalan Pinang

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Jalan Pinang

You can experience a comfortable, fuss-free stay at a pre-war conservation shophouse-turned-hotel at Jalan Pinang.Hotel Nuve is one of the few boutique hotels that are available in Kampong Gelam.

Jalan Pinang’s close proximity to North Bridge Road’s Murtabak cluster means that you can just make a turn after your meal and take a nice walk along this street.