Date Traveled, January 2012
Haji Lane and Arab Street apparently used to be part of a quiet ethnic enclave selling cloth, rugs and the like. It still does that, but it has also transformed into one of Singapore's most hip neighborhoods with boutique shops and middle eastern style cafes. Naturally also a great place to enjoy a hookah on the street over some snacks with hummus.
I went to the neighborhood for the first time with family, my mom, partner and nephew who happens to be my age. It was a family reunion of sorts in Singapore then as we had all flown in from different parts of the world to meet at my sisters place in Singapore. The rest of the family were enthralled by the little shops on Arab street selling cloth in different patterns and other things like shawls and the like. I tagged along for a bit but there was only so much rolls of cloth I could take and wandered off on my own exploring the street. I came across an entrance to Cafe Le Caire, a place I had come across in the guidebooks and decided to sit on the sidewalk table there and see what was available. The restaurant has tried to establish itself with an ambiance hearkening back to the French colonial times in the middle east with traditional middle eastern style seating and a very French name. They have done a pretty good job of it. It was late in the afternoon so the place was relatively quiet then. I visited once on another trip to Singapore at night and it was packed with people many of whom were enjoying their hookahs or shishas as they are known in many places (In the US, they are called hookahs). I ordered a tasty looking lamb dish on the menu that was served over a bed of mashed potatoes. It was as tasty as it looked and I enjoyed it over a nice strong cup of Turkish coffee. The sidewalks on Arab street is of a design I have seen in other parts of Singapore and is probably common in other places as well. The sidewalks are actually under the buildings upper layers which extend over them and are held up by pillars all along the way. This gives the sidewalks a roof above and people can walk past storefronts in these areas away from the heat of the sun.
Turkish coffee and meal at Cafe Le Caire
Enjoying a hookah on Haji lane
As I was finishing up, my family found me again and together we turned into the famous Haji lane. It was a charming street with all the character that warranted its reputation as a hip place. A lot of young folks were about and the street is filled with little boutique shops and cafes, all prominently displaying a large number of hookahs. We decided to stop at one of these places for a snack over a hookah where I was treated to my nephews Gandalf like skill with blowing smoke, a true pro.
Note there is typically no alcohol served at any of these cafes. The street in front of Haji lane has a line of bars and lounges that are extremely popular with foreigners living in Singapore that are crowded at night. I guess the idea is to get your alcohol fix there before heading back to finish up with a meal and a Hookah. Personally I enjoyed the afternoon visit much more. It was quieter, less crowded and more relaxing.