Nostalgic photos show how Ramadan was celebrated at Kampong Gelam in the 1980s

Those were the days.

| Fasiha Nazren | Sponsored | April 28, 2021, 06:57 PM

When it comes to Ramadan in Singapore, many would associate it with the extravagant Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar.

While we've not been to the well-loved bazaar in the past year (no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic), the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar has been a must-go for the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore since the 1970s.

However, did you know that there is an older but equally festive Ramadan bazaar in Kampong Gelam?

The Kampong Gelam bazaar precedes its Geylang Serai counterpart, having been around since the 1960s.

Here's how Ramadan was celebrated in this historical district.

Kampong Gelam in the 1980s

Based on photos of the bazaar in the 1980s, the stretch of road along Bussorah Street and Muscat Street was bustling with vendors hawking their goods and visitors eager to purchase them.

The bazaar was located conveniently right in front of Sultan Mosque, which meant that visitors can continue shopping and join the festivities after performing their obligatory maghrib (sunset) and terawih (a non-obligatory evening prayer during the month of Ramadan) prayers.

Muscat Street (1988)

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

Bussorah Street (1988)

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

Here, one could find everything they needed to prepare for Hari Raya Aidilfitri or festive food to break their fast.

Visitors would come here to buy decorative pieces to spruce their homes, including artificial flowers and table runners.

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

Kueh from S$0.20

Vendors could also be seen preparing festive street food that Singaporeans still love today, like ayam percik (grilled chicken glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce) and prawn vadai (dough fritters).

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

Just take a look at the vast variety of food available, with kuehs sold for as low as S$0.20.

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

And of course, no bazaar is complete without the festive lights.

Photo from the Ministry of Information and Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.

Present-day bazaar

These days, bazaars typically only take place along Muscat Street.

Bussorah Street, on the other hand, has been revamped and is now home to several restaurants, souvenir shops and boutiques.

Muscat Street (2018)

Photo from Sultangate.sg's website.

Photo from Sultangate.sg's website.

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A post shared by SultanGate.SG (@sultangate.sg)

Hybrid celebration

While there haven't been any bazaars at Kampong Gelam since last year, that doesn't mean the festive vibes are long gone.

For the first time in 13 years, the streets of Kampong Gelam will be lit up with festive lights.

Following the theme of Cahaya Ramadan (the light of Ramadan), streets along Kampong Gelam including North Bridge Road, Arab Street, Bussorah Street, Baghdad Street and Kandahar Street will see cascading lights every day from 7pm to 12am till May 12.

Here's what it looks like:

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

There's also the "The Light of Gelam" Light Show, which happens nightly.

Photo from Yanling Lin on Facebook.

For the rest of the month, one can also look forward to various virtual and physical activities including:

Trishaw tours

Go back in time and embark on a nostalgic journey with Trishaw Uncle tours around Kampong Gelam and immerse in the sights and sounds of the district.

Vouchers and merchandise giveaways are available for the first 100 sign ups.

Visitors can also use their SingapoRediscovers vouchers for these tours.

Kampong Gelam Virtual Tour

Singaporeans can also rediscover Kampong Gelam from wherever they are through Monster Day Tours’ Kampong Gelam Virtual Tour.

Bookings can be made here.

Craft workshops

One can also take part in traditional craft workshops organised by Lokka Lekkr, including:

  • Screen printing on tote bags
  • Block printing on pouches
  • Introduction to linocut printing
  • Mini tapestry looming
  • Batik painting

The first 150 workshop sign-ups will also receive a S$20 discount on the workshops.

Culinary workshops

If you’re looking to improve your cooking chops, one can look forward to culinary workshops by HZ Culinary.

Here, you can learn how to make in-demand dishes like Yemeni mandi rice, peri-peri chicken and even popular Mediterranean desserts like kunafa and baclava.

If you’re interested to find out more about the various tours and workshops, you can find out more here.

Virtual precinct tour

One can also enjoy the view of the lights via the 360 virtual precinct tour here.

More information on Cahaya Ramadan will be available here.

While basking in the festive mood, visitors should also be mindful to adhere to safe management measures in place.

This sponsored article by The Singapore Tourism Board has made the writer crave ayam percik while she is fasting.

Top image from National Archives Singapore.