South of Arab Street, Haji Lane and tiny Bali Lane – the last of these petering out into the wide walkway next to Ophir Road – have smartened up a fair bit of late. Both have something of London’s Brick Lane about them, with traditional shops rubbing up against trendy boutiques; in the evenings and at weekends DJs set up informally on Haji Lane, spinning dance sounds from their computers or record decks. It’s one of Singapore’s most appealing and organic enclaves, and yet it’s not hard to discern that not all is rosy: the local community is having to cope with fast-rising rents while trying, often unsuccessfully, to maintain a semblance of an Islamic character by getting new restaurants to subscribe to a voluntary no-booze policy.

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