Since Hari Raya Puasa and Racial Harmony Day just passed, it was timely that we were invited by OnePeople.sg for a short visit to Sultan Mosque aka Masjid Sultan in Kampong Glam. OnePeople.sg are an NGO that “promote racial harmony and spearhead programmes and initiatives to bring the different ethnic communities together”, and are also behind initiatives such as the Orange Ribbon Run, which promotes “understanding, appreciation and trust among Singapore’s multi-cultural and multi-religious society”. I’m not a fan of length marketing jargon, but I do like the thinking behind their initiatives, and I was happy to be part of one of their programmes!
Racial Harmony Day is usually marked in schools by kids dressing up in traditional wear. For our school this year, it was kampung day, where they got to eat traditional snacks and go to school in “kampung wear”. It is the day in commemoration of the 1964 Racial Riots, and in Primary Schools they make sure that the children know the significance of this event. When Mittens came home from school, we had a short discussion on different races and how we should be friends with everyone despite their race.
Anyway back to Sultan Mosque. We have walked past the mosque but never knew we could go inside. It is one of three mosques in Singapore that is open to visitors, and at the stipulated opening times, there are docents who are volunteer guides, who are available to answer any questions, or give you a quick tour of the mosque. I’m not even sure if there are any churches who have such services!
The Sultan Mosque is named as so, because the Sultan used to stay next door where is now the Malay Heritage Centre, and decided to build a mosque. We listened to the docent explaining the congregation would line up during prayer times, the prayer times themselves, and we got to ask him all the questions we always wondered but thought might not be nice to ask your Malay friend (like, what if you are flying across time zones, how do you figure out prayer times?). The Mosque was very welcoming and I loved the sense of peacefulness.
While the children were less interested in listening to the explanation of the docents, it was a good experience nonetheless, and I like that you can come and go (during visiting hours), and it’s not fixed times as children sometimes need that flexibility.
There is a dress code, but they do also provide some sarongs and cloaks for visitors. It is a large mosque, and the second oldest mosque in Singapore, and the tour could take as little as 10 minutes (if you just want to have a quick look around), or longer, if you have more time and questions with the docents. We went on a Saturday morning and it was not too crowded. There is also a water cooler on the left of the main prayer hall where you can top up your water, which is important for keeping those little kids hydrated especially if you are heading elsewhere later!
After the tour we headed to Zam Zam for some briyani (that’s 2 different cultures in one day!), but around Kampong Glam there is plenty else to see and do, like the Malay Heritage Centre, the Aliwal Centre for Arts, many hipster cafes, the Children Little Museum, famous Nasi Padang shops, Rich and Good traditional swiss roll shop, many textile and cane shops, Mrs Pho, and also the craft cafe Eat Play Love. There is also a downloadable walking trail by the National Heritage Board for the area. Just Google “Arab Street” and you will be spoilt for choice! We didn’t stay for long because I needed a nap 😀
If you would like to do a similar visit, in Chinatown there are 3 religious sites within 300m of each other: the intriguing Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the colourful Sri Mariamman Temple and Masjid Jamae. We have not done that ourselves (apart from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple), so I will have to put that on my list of to-dos. Or there is also the Telok Ayer area where there is the Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre, near Thian Hock Keng temple.
I remember once reading the phrase, “We fear what we do not know.”, and I think this is so appropriate to different races, cultures, traditions, etc. I love that in Singapore we all make efforts in order to celebrate our differences, rather than trying to make everyone homogeneous. I also love that there is so much cultural variety, and last but not least, there is such a wide range of yummy food to choose from! 😀
3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833
Saturdays to Thursdays
10am – 12pm & 2pm – 4pm
2.30pm – 4pm