Singapore's Oldest Communities

In a special series, The Straits Times features five of Singapore's oldest communities: the Armenians, the Arabs, the Parsis, the Jews and the Dawoodi Bohras.

Dawoodi Bohra Community

  • As a child, Mrs Rosy Nakhooda was told by her mother that she had "to stand on your own feet; you don't have a choice. You have to have an education". And she did - going on to become one of Singapore's pioneering economists, among other achievements
Ruqaiyah Mamajiwalla was a 'miracle' for her mother, who had been told not to have children because she had a weak heart. But her conservative father wished for a boy to take over the family business.

Jewish Community

  • Mr Harry Elias (left) symbolically finishing the writing of a new set of Torah by holding on to the hand of Rabbi Mendy Goldshmid (right) as Mr Daniel Harel, who donated the set, watches. Rabbi Goldshmid, who is based in Koh Samui, flew here for the
When Singapore-born Jew Harry Elias was five years old, the only times he got glimpses of his elder brothers were when he hung around Rex Cinema in MacKenzie Road.

Parsi Community

  • Mr Rustom Ghadiali, president of the Parsi Zoroastrian Association and one of the five priests here, praying at home.
Globally, the Parsi community is shrinking so fast from an ever-declining birth rate that India is now campaigning for Parsis to make childbearing a duty.

Arab Community

The first song that Dr Sharifah Mariam Aljunied learnt was not Twinkle Twinkle Little Star but the chorus of the Arabic "sung poem" called the Qasidah Burdah, which is in praise of God.

Armenian Community

Armenian violinist and music teacher Ani Umedyan has lived here since 2008, but still thinks it strange when Singaporeans ask: "Have you eaten?"