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Historic hilltop mosque near CBD set for upgrade

Perched on a hill at the edge of the Central Business District is a shrine where the remains of a beloved Muslim saint rest.

Every day, up to 100 visitors from Singapore and beyond make their way up its 49 steps to pray and lay flowers on the marble grave of renowned healer Habib Noh, who died in 1866.

The Haji Muhammad Salleh mosque management board called a tender in January – which closes at the end of this month – to upgrade the worn-out facilities at 37 Palmer Road, where the 1903 shrine is housed.

The rejuvenation effort will include repairs to its leaking walls and ceilings, as well as a new paint job. A lift will also be installed to allow elderly visitors easy access to the hilltop shrine.

“These additions and alteration works have been a long time coming,” said management board chairman Izammuddin Mohamed Ali. “The last time we upgraded the place was in the 1980s.”

The mosque started a fundraising drive for the upgrading project about six years ago and has raised $2 million so far.

The upgrade will also mean a refreshed prayer hall and better toilet and ablution facilities.

The mosque, which can hold up to 1,200 worshippers, will also be better ventilated.

The renovation will start in the middle of this year and take about nine months. There will be a temporary worship area at an open space nearby.

Mr Izammuddin said “great care” has been taken to ensure the historic structures’ key architectural features remain untouched during the upgrade.

It is hoped the compound will one day be given preservation or conservation status by the National Heritage Board or the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Ensconced near hotels, banks and the Keppel Viaduct, the fate of the Tanjong Pagar site is uncertain.

Members of the mosque management board fear it could be at risk of redevelopment since it sits on prime land.

“We hope it can stay for the long term and be here for future generations since it provides solace and tranquillity to visitors in this busy area,” said Mr Izammuddin.

The shrine and the larger Tanjong Malang area have been flagged by the Singapore Heritage Society for years as having heritage value.

The society said the area has important layers of history from the colonial period to the present day that are hard to find elsewhere in Singapore.

The URA told The Straits Times the mosque is part of a larger area where “longer-term plans have not been firmed up”.

Its spokesman added: “The conservation of any of the buildings in the area will be studied as part of the longer-term plans for redevelopment of the area.”

Driver Salim Saman, 52, who has been worshipping at the mosque for decades, said: “It will be a shame if it isn’t protected. It is well- known to people from all walks of life, even beyond our shores, and is an important part of Singapore’s landscape.”

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