Thoughts on Staying in Singapore’s Arabic Neighbourhood
I gorged myself on Indian food for the 2 months that I was in Penang. Sure, there was a little Nyonya food in there and the occasional Western style dish, but for the most part, I ate Indian food. Very yummy Indian food. I’m so in love with Indian food that one might think I would flock to Little India within hours of my arrival in Singapore. Guess what. I didn’t. In fact, it’s my second day in Singapore and I have yet to leave the neighbourhood where my hostel is located.
I know, I’m in Singapore. I need to be venturing out to the Hawker food centres and experiencing the food and people there, and I will, I promise. But before I go there, I need to finish experiencing the area around my hostel. Why? Well, I’ll tell you -but first I’ll give a wee bit of a backstory.
My decision to come to Singapore had everything to do with the floods in Bangkok and my desire to not miss my flight back to Toronto. I had visions of being in a taxi at 4:30 am and not making it to the airport. Normally I wouldn’t care, but my arrival in Toronto will allow me to surprise my family and attend my niece’s first birthday (I have yet to make it to her sister’s birthday parties, so this is important to me). I called Air Canada, to enquire about flight changes and within minutes I was given a flight out of Singapore instead of Bangkok for no additional charge. Goodbye Bangkok, Hello Singapore.
I’ve never been to Singapore before, and although I’ve heard it was a little expensive, I wanted to spend a few days relaxing and exploring, but before I could make any final plans, I needed to do a little research.
It was during my very brief research that I came across information on a hostel called Sleepy Sam’s B&B. It didn’t take much for me to decide to book a bed. For one, the price was right ($28SG/night), and for another, the neighbourhood was right. You see, Sleepy Sam’s is located in the Arabic area of Singapore.
The idea of staying in an Arabic neighbourhood delighted me to the point of making me giddy. I had visions of street vendors and shwarma. The reality, however, was a little different. There are no street vendors in this neighbourhood and finding cheap shwarma is almost impossible, however, that doesn’t mean I made the wrong choice. No sir. I made the right choice. I know, it sounds crazy, let me paint a picture for you, so you understand my current frame of mind.
It’s late Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting at a small table outside a Turkish café called Derwish which is two doors down from my hostel. The outside of the café is decorated in white, gold and black. There is a slight breeze and from where I sit, I can see the Sultan Mosque. The café is playing Arabic pop music. I feel snacky, so I’ve ordered hummus and some tea.
As I waited for my snack and tea, I sat and watched as couples ordered traditional Turkish fare. I watched men smoke from hookahs, the sweet smell seeping into my nostrils.
My hummus was served on a white porcelain plate with a homemade pide ekmeği (Turkish flatbread) which had been cut into 4 pieces. There is olive oil drizzled over the hummus and in the centre is an olive.
I’ve never been a fan of hummus, however, I decided to give it a try. This is a Turkish café in an Arabic neighbourhood, it should be good, right? That may sound wrong, but that is where my mind went as I ordered it. Guess what? The hummus was amazing. If I could get away with licking the plate, I totally would.
I decide to eat the hummus slowly, savouring every morsel of hummus-covered pide ekmeği. There is more hummus than bread and that worries me slightly as I don’t want to waste any of it. As I eat my mind starts to think about Turkish apple tea and wonders where I can go to Singapore to buy a tin to bring back to Canada. I then start thinking of my travel plans for next year and think that a week or two in Turkey is not going to be enough. If the food is this good in Turkey or Iran, I am going to need a lot more time in both countries.
How did it come to this? When did food start making my travel plans? I’m not sure when everything shifted, but I’m totally okay with it.
**I wonder if I can find a place to teach me how to make Turkish pide ekmeği and hummus and a few other Turkish dishes.**
Tomorrow I plan to actually leave the neighbourhood and see more of Singapore, no matter how hard that may be. It will be hard though. I’ve only had Turkish food here so far and there are plenty of Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Indian and Persian cafés within minutes of my hostel. I must resist the urge though. I must explore more tomorrow. Tonight though, I am getting my fill of Turkish food -oh, and then there is the little cake shop called My Fat Lady which sells yummy looking cupcakes. I must go there too, like every day.