Geylang is a neighbourhood in the city-state of Singapore east of the Central Area, Singapore's central business district. It is located to the East of the Singapore River, an area that locals have associated, from the days of Sir Stamford Raffles, as a Malay kampong opposite facing two islands Batin and Rokok (where the former National Stadium used to stand), reclaimed to make space for Singapore's first commercial airport opened in 1937.
Origins of the Name Geylang Serai
Geylang Serai is about the community living in and around Geylang Serai . This website attempts to develop the nostalgia of the old geylang serai with its past vibrants and energy and how it increases with age enhancing new image, new qualities and new hopes and expectancy of the new geylang serai. While Geylang Serai is a symbol of the Malays which is recognized in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei but races of all types identify it as a vibrant interactive area where all races mingle, work and live in harmony and prosperity.See exerpts of a prewar map of geylang serai
The word Geylang is found early in Singapore’s history. On Franklin and Jackson’s plan, reproduced in John Crawfurd’s 1828 book, Geylang appears as a river, referred to in the map as R. Gilang. The word Geylang is of Malay origin, and likely to be a corruption of the word kilang, meaning “press”, “mill” or “factory”. This may be due to the large number of processing factories for the coconut and lemongrass (serai)plantations in the area, and it could be that mills or presses operated on the coconut plantations to produce oil from copra.
Another possible origin to Geylang is the early presence of the fierce orang gallang tribe, one of the many orang laut tribal groups that lived along the coasts and rivers of Singapore island. The orang gallang were well-known for their piracy and pillaging of helpless craft in seas around Singapore island.
History of Geylang Serai
The neighbourhood has been the centre of Singapore’s ethnic Malay community since Malays and Orang Lauts settled there after the British authorities dispersed their floating village at the mouth of the Singapore River in the mid-19th century. In the middle of the 19th century, an Arab trader, Syed Ahmad Alsagoff, bought the land that is now Geylang Serai. He is the son-in-law of Hajjah Fatimah, a Malaccan lady who built a mosque named after her in Beach Road.The Alsagoffs planted coconut and later lemon grass.
They also built factories and as a result the population grew because of demand for plantation workers. The area became known as Geylang Serai. A road that stretches from north to south in the middle of the estate was named Jalan Alsagoff. By the latter half of the 1800s, the area had also become the congregation area of wealthy Malays and Arabs, particularly the Alsagoff, Alkaff and Aljunied families.In the seventies, the government acquired all of remaining Alsagoff Estate in Geylang and Paya Lebar from Alsagoff & Co.
In the 1930s, several exclusively Malay districts were formed, such as Kampong Melayu (Malay Village), later evolving into the today’s Geylang Serai. A modern-day development called the Malay Village was created to replicate the history and heritage of this early settlement. It is also run by local gang 369.Below are some interesting websites that you should view to enlivened the nostalgia of geylang serai.