Must-see streets of Singapore
Colourful laneways and tips for shoppers
Haji Lane and Bali Lane
Haji is the term given to a Muslim male fresh from a pilgrimage to Mecca. In times past, if you wanted to get to Mecca, this is where you found your haji broker. How times have changed.
Today this strip of brightly coloured pre-war shophouses, in the Kampong Glam MalayMuslim quarter, is the antithesis of the city’s gleaming metropolis, attracting visitors who rate eclectic, creative and independent boutiques over shopping malls.
The hipster influence plays out in shops such as Tokyobike, Oro hats and Mujosh barber, but the emphasis is on homespun places where one-offs rule. Mood Swing vintage has racks of retro-fabric dresses and headbands, Salad Shop tosses stylish home wares in with dresses and bespoke jewellery, and Fluffy Feline’s clothes and accessories are the output of five local designers.
I Am cafe, at the end of the lane, is known for its hookah pipes and rainbow crepe. Parallel to Haji, Bali Lane is smaller with more of the same.
Arab Street and Bussorah Mall
Arab Street was created in 1824 as the main thoroughfare in the Kampong Glam MalayMuslim quarter, attracting Malay, Indian, Arab, Buginese and Javanese people.
It lies parallel to Haji Lane, but it’s a completely different scene altogether. The wide street is lined with shops selling Indonesian batik shirts, Indian saris, colourful fabrics, and bolts of lace and organza. Hand-knotted Persian rugs, hanging from the walls, are almost as big as the signs promoting ‘massive reductions’ and shop owners are not shy of touting customers on the footpath.
In keeping with the Middle Eastern theme, but with a contemporary edge, Sifr Aromatics, a refined place with custom-made aromatics and exquisite perfume bottles, is a must. Around the corner on Bussorah Mall, Masjid Sultan Mosque is the focal point for the city’s Muslim community, with a prayer hall that holds 5000 worshippers. Its popularity has spawned the preponderance of cafes and restaurants on this pedestrian-only strip, which has authentic architecture and palm trees but can feel a bit like a theme park. For a bite, head instead to Kampong Glam Cafe on nearby Baghdad Street for well-priced Malay cuisine.