Apr 18 2013
Get a crash course in the kebaya, keris and everything else Malay at the Malay Heritage Centre in Singapore’s historic Kampong Glam neighbourhood. This museum recently reopened after total overhaul and is bigger and better than ever before.
The centre is also known as the Istana Kampong Glam as it served as the Sultan’s palace back in the days when Singapore was one with Malaysia and ruled by the Sultan of Johor. Some of the Sultan’s descendents continued to live on the sprawling property until recent years, but were evicted in 1999 to make way for the Malay Heritage Centre.
The goal of the centre is to showcase Malay heritage and culture in Singapore, and it does so with six permanent exhibits spread throughout the palace’s numerous rooms. The first exhibits you see upon entering the centre are the most museum-like with maps showing historic migration patterns, black and white photographs, antique keris (ornate swords) in glass cases and mannequins dressed in traditional Malay costumes like the baju melayu for men and kebaya for women (which inspired the uniforms worn by Singapore Airlines’ flight attendants). Stick around to watch the restored videos of the Kampong Glam area of the past – the transformation is astounding.
The most notable change in the re-opened Malay Heritage Centre is the interactive exhibits celebrating Malay music and film. There’s a new listening room where you can put on headphones and listen to Malay pop records from the 1960s and a mini-theatre where you can enjoy the films of P. Ramlee, the iconic Malay actor and director.
To get the most out of a visit, come at 12:00 or 14:00 when there are free guided tours. Tours are currently offered from Thursday to Sunday and last about 45 minutes. It’s also worth checking if there are any special events. The centre aims to be an important part of the Malay community and regularly hosts cultural performances, children’s activities and educational workshops.
If you have any interest in Malay culture or history, the centre is certainly worth the nominal admission fee. That said, young children will certainly have more fun running around the expansive lawn than reading the informational displays. Even if you don’t plan to go inside, it’s worth a visit to check out the peaceful palace grounds and the nearby Sultan Mosque.
Malay Heritage Centre
85 Sultan Gate, Singapore
Nearest MRT: Bugis
T: 6391 0450
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00–18:00
Admission: S$4 for adults, S$2 for children/students, free for children under 6
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