1. Visit Istana Kampong Glam
Kampong Glam was home to Malay royalty in the nineteenth century, and Istana Kampong Glam was built to be the residence of the Sultan of Johor. The compound is an example of British architecture which played an influential part during negotiations between the colonising British and the local Malay chiefs.
Today, Istana Kampong Glam is home to the Malay Heritage Centre, offering visitors a glimpse into the area's past. The well-preserved historical site was granted national monument status in 2015, on the eve of Singapore's 50th anniversary as an independent nation.
2. Check Out the Persian Carpets
The area has maintained its ethnic ties to the trade that followed from the rest of Asia and the Middle East. There are plenty of stores selling fine Afghan and Persian carpets, rugs, mats, floor throws and cushions. Drive a hard bargain and you might walk away with an authentic Iranian carpet at a very good price.
Many of the shop keepers in Kampong Glam hail from the same country as the carpets they sell, so strike up a conversation and you might learn an interesting cultural fact that’s not in a standard encyclopaedia, or get recommendations for the best authentic Middle Eastern restaurants in the area.
3. Grab a Great Meal
There are kebabs, hummus, pita bread, feta cheeses, and wines to be savoured, especially among the narrower alleyways behind some of Singapore’s oldest buildings. Recline on a large floor cushion and have your meal served to you in a delightfully aristocratic manner.
Many of these senior structures have undergone thorough restoration to preserve their original book and feel. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, some better known than others, so scout around and ask the locals for recommendations.
4. Visit the Masjid Sultan Mosque
Located on Muscat Street (Muscat is the capital city of Oman), the Masjid Sultan Mosque is easy to spot with its gleaming dome and prominent minarets that reflect its Indo-Saracenic style architecture. The main prayer hall is large enough to accomodate 5,000 worshippers at once.
Built under the auspices of Sultan Hussain, the Sultan of Johor, Masjid Sultan Mosque was completed in 1826 with funding from the British East India Company. The architecture has remained unchanged since that time, with only minor renovation works and an additional annex built in the 1990s.
5. Go Dancing
The area is home to some of Singapore’s more trendy nightspots, popular with locals and expats alike. In the lanes clustered around Arab Street, you'll find well established cafés and bars famed for their laidback vibes, generous happy hours, occasional music festivals and laneway street parties, and daily live music.
Some of Singpore's best musicians and DJs have gotten their start at these venues over the years. And if you’re a musician yourself, make it known — you might well end up on the stage and then rewarded for your talents with a drink or two on the house. You never know, so give it a whirl and see what happens!