Kampong Glam is a neighbourhood in Singapore, a city-state in Southeast Asia. It is located north of the Singapore River, in the urban planning areas of Kallang and Rochor.
The area’s name is derived from two Malay words, Kampong, meaning “village” or “settlement”, and Glam (or Gelam) referring to a variety of eucalyptus (Malaleuca leucadendron) which grew in the area. Its bark was used by boat builders in the village to caulk boats while its leaves provided cajuput oil (from Malay: minyak kayu puteh, or white wood) which could be used to treat muscular aches and pains, as well as respiratory problems.
Prior to colonisation by the British in 1819, the area was home to the Malay aristocracy of Singapore. It became prominent and more populous after the signing of a treaty between the British East India Company, Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor and Temenggong Abdul Rahman in 1819. The company was given the right to set up a trading post in Singapore under this treaty.
During the colony’s early history, under the Raffles Plan of 1822, the settlement was divided according to different ethnic groups which included European Town, Chinese, Chulia, Arab and Bugis kampongs. Kampong Glam was designated for the Sultan and his household, as well as the Malay and Arab communities, many of whom were merchants. It was situated east of what was then the European Town.
While the Temenggong and his followers settled in Telok Blangah, Sultan Hussein, his family and followers settled in Kampong Glam. In return, the Sultan was given large areas of land for residential use in Kampong Glam under the treaty. The land was allocated to the Malays and other Muslim immigrants to Singapore, including the Malays from Melacca, the Riau Islands and Sumatra in Indonesia.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw the rapid growth of immigrant communities in Kampong Glam, initially from Sumatra, and later from other parts of Indonesia and Malaya. This resulted in the setting up of different kampongs, like Kampong Malacca, Kampong Java and Kampong Bugis. There were also a small but successful Arab community of traders in the area.
In the early twentieth century, commercial activities in Kampong Glam expanded as new shophouses and residential buildings were built. A multi-ethnic community soon developed there, comprising not only Malays and Arabs but also the Chinese and Indians.
Later, due to an expansion of commercial activities and an increase in immigrant settlers in Kampong Glam, the Arabs moved to areas like Joo Chiat, Tanglin and Bukit Tunggal (the stretch of Dunearn Road near the junction of Balmoral Road and Chancery Lane, near Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) today, was called Tunggal Road).
By the early 1920s, many Malays also moved out to designated resettlement areas in Geylang Serai and Kampong Eunos.
Since the 1980s, several large portions of the area have been declared National Heritage sites and have been protected for conservation. In 1989, Kampong Glam was gazetted as a conservation area by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Some of the conserved sites in Kampong Glam include the Sultan Mosque, the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque and the Istana Kampong Glam, the palace of the former Sultan.
Today, Kampong Glam still retains strong ties to the ethnic-Malay and Muslim community, and has sometimes been termed the “Muslim Quarter” due to its history. The Muslim population still remains a significant presence in Kampong Glam, especially in Bussorah Street. The area remains a centre for Muslim activities and the Sultan Mosque remains a major landmark and congregation point for Singapore Muslims.
Like Little India and Chinatown, Kampong Glam has been restored, refurbished and new life breathed into it, bringing back the former colour and vibrancy of the area. Rows of conserved shophouses can be found in Arab Street, Baghdad Street and Bussorah Street. Many of these shophouses have new tenants such as design and IT firms, art galleries, crafts and curios shops, food caterers and restaurants. They blend in with traditional businesses like textile and carpet shops, blacksmiths and shops selling religious items used by Muslims.
On December 16, 2006, a fire broke out at four shophouses at Sultan Gate at 2145 (SST) with the four shophouses destroyed by the fire. It nearly spread to nearby food and beverage outlets in the vicinity. Of the four shophouses destroyed, two were vacant shophouses, one a blacksmith shop and the other a shoe shop. Firefighters controlled the fire by surrounding the fire as it was spreading through the roof. According to eyewitnesses, the fire started from the second floor of the blacksmith shop. The blacksmith shop is one of the oldest type of shophouses in Singapore which was used for education tour