It is evident to say that Malaysia and Singapore are intrinsically intertwined in many ways. Not only are both countries linked by an umbilical cord geographically, we are each other’s closest neighbours sharing countless cultural, economical and social alikeness.
With regards to diversity in religion and ethnicity, major denominations co-exist in both nations; although Islam is still given precedence in Singapore albeit boasting a significantly inferior community of Muslims compared to that of Malaysia whereby Muslims trump the vast population.
And to commemorate the recent start of Ramadhan that emphasises fasting, prayer, self-purification and reflection, we embarked on a visit to Lion City with the Singapore Tourism Board to experience this holy month the Singaporean way and ultimately, get the knack of its Muslim heritage.
Enlivening every Ramadhan period in Singapore since the year 1984 is Hari Raya Light Up – An annual visual extravaganza taking place at Geylang Serai that showcases larger-than-life light installations with an accompanying Ramadhan bazaar, weekend live performances and movie screenings.
Attracting locals and international visitors alike, the 2017 edition of Hari Raya Light Up features centrepieces modelled after classic Malay icons such as the 4.4-metre tall wau, sampan and 12-metre kelong along the 2.25km stretch across Sims Avenue and Changi Road, alongside brilliantly illuminated arches with festive words of blessing.
Those who yearn for a deeper insight into the Malay culture can pop by the temporary exhibition housed under a structure that emulates the weaves of the ketupat to unearth the rich Malay history and get acquainted with Malay traditions that have been passed down through generations.
With fasting comes feasting and no true spirit of Ramadhan will be complete without mouthwatering food. Offering just that and so much more is the crowd-pleasing Geylang Serai Bazaar that prides itself in over 1,000 stalls selling food and drinks, home decor, traditional costumes, accessories, and trinkets, amongst others.
We totally undermined the bazaar, as anyone else would being typical Malaysians. It’s similar to our pasar malam, except 100 times better and bigger, literally. We couldn’t get enough and clearly succumbed to the evil of gluttony with fried Oreos, okonomiyaki, kebab, grilled fresh seafood, icy liquid nitrogen froyo, beef chili, crepes and more.
To further immerse in the festive liveliness, traditional performances of the kompang, Malay dance and karaoke can be enjoyed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (except 24 June) throughout the month of Ramadhan, besides screenings of old time favourite movies like P. Ramlee films that are always enjoyable.
Hari Raya Light Up 2017 goes on from 20 May to 7 July 2017 at Geylang Serai and the opening hours are as follows: Sundays to Thursdays – 7pm to 12am, Fridays and Saturdays – 7pm to 2am, Eve of Hari Raya Puasa (24 June) – 7pm to 6am.