Tonight we attended ‘Hari Raya Puasa’, a Ramadan Bazaar in Geylang Serai. Approximately 15% of Singaporeans are Muslim and are currently celebrating Ramadan, which involves fasting from dawn until dusk. The bazaar had food markets that allow the community to collectively break their fast, as well as stalls selling new cloths, decorations and home wares; thus supporting the custom of buying new items for the home. An array of exotic Malay-inspired dishes and snacks were displayed at each stall including spicy fish balls, biryani (a dish of rice, meat and spices), chick-pea biscuits, fried sweet potato, kebabs and pide. These were complemented with colourful and tasty drinks including lychee, mango, sour sok and rose flavoured water. A group of us excitedly selected a few different dishes and drinks and sat in the park nearby to delight in the fascinating new flavours.
While enjoying our meal we reflected on Singapore and the appreciable diversity of this city-state. Singapore is represented by three main ethnic groups with 74% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indian. This leads to an array of unique opportunities for cultural experiences: one night we can be eating dumplings and noodles in a Hawker centre, the next day immersing ourselves in the wonders of the Malay culture near Arab Street and the next nigh delighting in a spicy meal in Little India. There are also four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, which means there are often four translations on signs with the Straits Times, the Singaporean newspaper, publishing in multiple languages.
Diversity in ethnicities also means diversity in religion. On Sunday we listened to the Catholic church near our hotel ring bells, while tonight we were able to appreciate the sound of a local mosque’s call to prayer. Although Sydney is also a multicultural and similarly a cosmopolitan city, the way the cultures instil themselves into the landscape differs. Appreciating and embracing the new cultural experiences Singapore offers has provided an enjoyable trip and enabled opportunities for understanding this economically important city at a grassroots level. It is also interesting observing and comprehending how these cultures harmoniously interact and co-exist: a lesson of increasing importance in today’s globalised and interdenominational world.
This blog was originially published on Sydney Life: Student experiences at the University of Sydney.
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the New Combo Plan, a short-term interdisciplinary field school in Singapore where students work together to understand and analyse the Singapore government’s housing policy