Entrance of Haji Lane from North Bridge Road, Singapore c 1963
Entrance of Haji Lane from North Bridge Road, Singapore 2014
On a sunny day in 2014 when I walked down Haji Lane, I was surprised that there were many young people, Singaporeans, visitors and tourists from various countries.
I felt awkward and out of place in this quaint, narrow alleyway in Singapore.
Haji Lane – Singapore’s original hipster neighborhood. A buzzling, all-hours enclave in Kampong Glam peppered with charming boutiques, watering holes, cafes, and restaurants that rank high on hip factor.
The photos of the colorful and funky murals on the buildings are shared here on this blog.
The shophouses of Haji Lane have a history no less interesting than the stores they house now. In the 60s and 70s, the area provided lodging for poor Malay families, and also gave shelter to pilgrims on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Incidentally, that’s where the name of the street has its roots — ‘Haji’ is the Malay word for a Muslim man who’s completed a pilgrimage to Mecca.
It’s pretty apt that the first shop which took on the monumental task of reviving the area’s nightlife scene was a Middle Eastern-style café. Café le Caire, an Arabic hookah restaurant which started up in 2001, was then the only establishment in Kampong Glam willing to open at night and on Sundays. According to the café owner, Ameen Talib:
“The whole Haji Lane area was totally dead…There were basically just a lot of empty shop houses. The ones that were occupied were used as storage spaces.”
Almost 50 years later, Haji Lane which is the shortest street in Singapore is transformed into the most popular “in-place” to chill when night falls.
Once an empty street of pre-war shophouses, Haji Lane has been given a new lease of life by local designers and young entrepreneurs who have set up their quaint boutiques proffering fashionable wear and products boasting made-in-Singapore designs. Here, you will find excellent vintage shops selling an array of contemporary, quirky garments and accessories as well as local boutiques by up-and-coming designers that have been refurbished in their own unique style. Just a street away, you’ll find textile shops that have been in business since the 1950s! There’s a raw, energetic vibe that’s worlds away from the polished international stores which makes Haji Lane so undeniably fascinating.
The backlane with nothing exciting for anyone to do in the past is now packed with the latest hotspots in the area bar-restaurant that’s a mishmash of urban street art, art deco, Georgian, Victorian and modern furnishings—a great backdrop to a small alley filled with independent designer stores that have thrilled the likes of Gwen Stefani. Your local shopping trip in Singapore simply wouldn’t be complete without a stop at this much-loved alley.
The drab and dull grey walls once upon a time are now filled with colorful coats of psychedelic paintings to fill the walls on every sides along the alley. Have a walk in the night at Haji Lane to meet everyone from everywhere all over the world and have a place to remember.
Chinese “getai” stage in Haji Lane c 1980
The juxtaposed photo of Haji Lane in 1968 when it was an ordinary backlane outside the upper floor of the building with the “flag-poles” of clothings on bamboo posts to dry in the sun. (Photo credit: National Archives of Singapore).
Haji Lane in 2014
A video clip with courtesy of Phenomenal Travel Videos on YouTube is posted here to share.