A Slice of Oceanic Islam: Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar in Singapore

A sonic landscape of Quranic recitations transported me back to my college years in Muscat where the bus driver would play the recitations during the fasting Holy Month of Ramadan. I did not expect this in a food centre in Singapore, and was pleasantly surprised by the innate familiarity of the space at the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar. The colors and the narrow lines of traditional attire was a global space, trans locally connected to the bazaars in the Gulf or South Asia.

The colorful salwar kameez for both men and women, the gem stone rings, the head scarfs are a remainder that Singapore was an important port for the Hajj from Java to Mecca as Eric Tagliacozzo has written in his book. Arab families still feature in the physical landscape in Singapore. As i wrote in a recent academic essay for my Global Cities Module in the PhD Program:

” Singapore as a part of British Malaya was a transit point for Haj Pilgrims from the Bahasa speaking world to Ottoman Mecca stopping by ports such as Bombay, Cochin, Karachi, and British controlled Aden (Tagliacozzo 2013) (Mandal 2018).

Hadrami Diaspora connected ‘the balad’ (the homeland in Arabic) which is Al Hadramout in current day Yemen to Singapore, where Arab traders such as the Al Kaff or Al Juneid families were once the largest property owners in colonial Singapore. Al Juneid MRT and street names such as Muscat Street in the Kampung Glam neighbourhood is an indelible physical signifier in the everyday life of the city regarding the transregional connections to the Middle East (Ho 2006). With the Little India, Bugis and China Town configuring the city as ethnic enclaves in a traditional sense which was ordinary for colonial cities such as Calcutta (still has a China Town enclave) and Penang (Kooria & Ravensbergen, 2018).”

Thanks a ton to my friend Mr. Colin Pang for his time and care to show me around the area, as there are different ‘Global’ Singapore’s to be seen and experienced and may be written about.

The Bazaar.

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