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 fact, Geylang Serai was originally named "Geylang Kelapa", as "kelapa" is the Malay word for coconuts. Interestingly, a coconut garden has indeed been identified on an old map. The second theory is that "Geylang" derives from "kilang", Malay for factory. The third is that "Geylang" may have gotten its name from an indigenous people in the area known as “Orang Kallang”. Lastly, “Geylang” could have been derived from the Hokkien term for chicken coop, "kei-lang", which sounds similar in pronunciation to “Geylang”. When a part of Geylang became a settlement for Arab merchants later on, one of these families – the Ashakov – planted lemongrass here. The area then became known as "Geylang Serai", "serai" being the Malay word for lemongrass. Another wealthy Arab family, the Aljunied, also chose to build their family home in Geylang when Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied and his uncle arrived in 1820 to trade in Singapore at the invitation of Sir Stamford Raffles. The Aljunied family eventually built six mosques in Singapore, including the oldest, Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, on Keng Cheow Street. A Melting Pot of Race and Religion Located on the outskirts of Singapore’s central business district, Geylang was one of the locations in which many immigrants chose to settle in the early days due to the ease of getting around and cheaper rent. Though it may seem incongruous with the nearby central district, Geylang is truly a world of its own. Geylang was a place where immigrants of different races were able to live in harmony with their respective religious beliefs, and today, it is home to more than 100 churches, Buddhist temples, Taoist temples and ancestral halls. As the area with the highest density of religious and kinfolk organisations in Singapore, you are bound to come across a guild, or ancestral hall on your walk around Geylang. A Bounty of Old Buildings With few high-rise buildings, Geylang’s rich historical and cultural heritage is accentuated by rows of old shophouses, the exterior walls of which are often painted in milder colours. The streets and alleys are crisscrossed like those found in Venice. Walking through all this closely packed network of old buildings is like going on a mysterious journey through time, and it has an ambience not unlike that of a Wong Kar-wai movie. The rapid pace of development in Singapore seems to have left Geylang behind, but it seems to relish proceeding at its own pace. Aside from the temples, there are also traditional Chinese large houses in Geylang. However, these houses differ from those in China as they feature a strong dose of the Nanyang style. Painted in relatively bright colours, these conspicuous and unique houses stand out in the neighbourhood. A Neighbourhood That Never Sleeps While the rest of Singapore is still waking up from its slumber, Geylang is already a buzzing hive of activity at 6:30am. Migrant workers just getting off the night shift can be seen everywhere shopping for groceries and daily necessities or having their breakfast. Some sit on the kerb waiting for their transport to pick them up for work. The supermarkets in Geylang, whether they are part of chains or individually owned, are mostly open round the clock to serve the workers who are working tirelessly to keep the island- state humming along. Take a closer look and you can find many North-eastern Chinese snacks around. For this charming neighbourhood, such transformations have always been juxtaposed against its rich and unchanging heritage. (Translated by Shawn Pang)   A map of Singapore in 1846 showing “Gaylang Road” and its coconut plantations Source: NUS Libraries Historical Maps Of Singapore (NUSLHMSG) 新加坡市镇图与邻近地区(1846年)标注着“Gaylang Road”与小椰子园 (图片来源:新加坡国立大学图书馆珍藏的新加坡历史地图) 142 popularnews - 35 

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