Hadhrami Arab Families in Singapore

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

He was a popular and influential merchant and steamship owner.

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A Wealthy Arab Merchant

Did you know that the most prominent Hadhrami Arabs in Singapore—the Alsagoffs, Alkaffs, and Aljunieds­—are descended from Alawi, Prophet Muhammad’s nephew?

Steamships in Singapore

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

He was a popular and influential merchant and steamship owner.

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A Wealthy Arab Merchant

Singapore is an important place for our businesses. With the opening of the Suez Canal and Singapore’s designation as a major coal refuelling station, the island is the main port for my steamships. My ships left Singapore this morning, loaded with goods and produce from the region, bound for the…
A Dutch East Indies Administrator
Circa 1872
The era of steamships has arrived! We are no longer beholden to the whims and fancies of trade winds. Trade is growing and we have had to increase our routes across the Indian Ocean.

Syed Mohamed Alsagoff, you and the rest of the Arab merchants in the region have made a monopoly of pilgrim travel. In recent decades, approximately 6,000 Javanese pilgrims travelled to Mecca for the Haj every year. With this growth, we desperately need to regulate pilgrim traffic—an issue we should discuss privately.

The Economy of the Haj

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

He was a popular and influential merchant and steamship owner.

Explore

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

I have received a wonderful gift from Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor: an agricultural concession on Kukup Island
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff also opened a port on Kukup Island for ships bound for Singapore or Melaka. He developed the area by employing a large number of labourers from the Middle East, the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia. Many of these men worked for the Alsagoff family to repay the debts incurred for passage on their ships to Mecca for the Haj.
! Muslims from Singapore and the region can work here to save up money for the Haj, or borrow money to go on the Haj first and work off what is owed on…
A Haj Pilgrim
Circa 1878
The Haj is now made available to most Muslims. It used to be that only the very rich could make the Haj but steamships have made journeys cheaper and shorter. With a little hard work, it is possible for everyone to go for Haj! Although I have been working in Singapore to save up for a steamship ticket, I decided to take out a loan from Alsagoff and Co. anyway. I’ll pay it off by working for the company along the route back!

Global Tensions in the late 19th Century

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

He was a popular and influential merchant and steamship owner.

Explore

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

I have returned from a trip to the Ottoman Empire, where I met with Sultan Abdul Hamid II. I asked to be appointed as the Honorary Consul-General for Turkey
It is unclear if this title was posthumously bestowed upon Syed Mohamed Alsagoff. However, the role he played served a similar function in his lifetime.
in Singapore and he has agreed. I hope this will mark a change in the British perception of Arabs in Singapore—so…
An Arab Sailor
Circa 1884
Another score for the well-connected Alsagoff family! One can only envy your connections both through blood and marriage to the Ottomans. I cannot claim to be surprised—Mecca, the heart of the Haj, is a vital Ottoman city after all.

The ever-growing Alsagoff network stretches everywhere across the region to Mecca. I hear you also maintain strong relationships with the Sharif of Mecca, Sultan of Johor, Sultan of Siak, Sultan of Langkat, Sultan of Pontianak and the Governor of the Straits Settlements!
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The History of Raffles Hotel

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

He was a popular and influential merchant and steamship owner.

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A Wealthy Arab Merchant

My father Syed Ahmed bought the Beach House at No. 1 Beach Road and turned it into a hotel. In 1889, I decided to expand it, before leasing it to the Sarkies brothers
Martin, Tigran, Aviet and Arshak Sarkies were brothers and Armenian hoteliers. Tigran and Aviet founded Raffles Hotel in 1887, under a lease from Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff. They owned the Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, and three hotels in Penang, Malaysia—Eastern and Oriental Hotel, Oriental Tiffin & Billiard Rooms and Craig Hotel.
. Under their stewardship, Raffles Hotel became the premier destination for visitors to Singapore.

Financing…
An Armenian Merchant
Circa 1900
Oh, I know of the rich history of this place! It was a beach house in the 1830s before it was leased by Charles Emmerson
Born in the United States of America, Charles Emmerson was a proprietor of two hotels, Clarendon Hotel and Emmerson’s Hotel. The Clarendon was described as one of the finest hotels in Singapore. Emmerson’s Hotel had many recreational activities such as lawn tennis and quoits. He is also remembered as the founder and operator of Emmerson’s Tiffin Rooms, a popular restaurant in Flint’s buildings near Cavenagh Bridge.
, who opened Emmerson’s Hotel! After Emmerson’s death, it was reopened as Hotel Des Indes, before it became Raffles Boarding School.

But it was the Armenian touch
When Tigran Sarkies was managing Raffles Hotel, the establishment quickly acquired a reputation for dining innovations, with grand balls and banquets. By the 1910s, the brothers were at the height of their success and included modern systems such as elevators and tennis lawns to their hotels. During the Great Depression, the Sarkies brothers accumulated the biggest bankruptcy in Singapore, amounting to $3.5 million.
from the Sarkies brothers, especially Tigran Sarkies, which transformed the old Beach House into a first-class establishment. Under their charge, new wings were added on both sides of the building, with the Billiard Room and Palm Court Wing built. They are the pride of the Armenian community in Singapore
The Armenians were a small group of migrants who first arrived in Singapore in 1819. Although they never numbered more than 100, their contributions were far-reaching. By the turn of the century, the Sarkies brothers had become well known as successful hoteliers in Singapore and the region. Other famous Armenian traders include Aristarkies Sarkies and Mackertich Moses. Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim, is named after another Armenian, Agnes Joaquim.
!

Alsagoff’s Straits Produce

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff
Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

He was a popular and influential merchant and steamship owner.

Explore

A Wealthy Arab Merchant

Alsagoff and Co. exports Straits produce
Coffee, cotton, cinnamon, cloves and indigo, were planted on a more cautious experimental scale. However, by the 1860s the experiments had ended in failure due to estate deficiencies, plant diseases, pests, and the absence of seasonal change.
such as rubber, sago, coconuts, coffee, cocoa, and pineapples to Arabia and Europe.

I’ve also diversified my investments by buying up land in Singapore. As of today, my properties include 400 hectares of plantation land in Geylang Serai, many houses around…
Leopold Chasseriau
Leopold Chasseriau

A French Plantation Owner

His 1,200-hectare tapioca plantation in Bukit Timah was Singapore’s largest. It rapidly became a model for the southern Malay Peninsula, which included three processing factories with steam-powered machinery.

A French Plantation Owner
Circa 1900
Yes, your acquisition of land in Singapore will prove a worthwhile investment. The plantation land in Geylang Serai has already been put to good use, and we are having a bumper crop of coffee, pepper, tapioca and sugar cane now!

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff's Death

Syed Omar Alsagoff
Syed Omar Alsagoff

Co-founder of Alsagoff and Co.

Syed Omar established Alsagoff and Co. with his uncle, Nong Chik, representing the company in Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, returning to Singapore to run the company upon his uncle’s death.

Co-founder of Alsagoff and Co.

Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff, grandson of Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff, has died
The funeral was attended by almost the entire Muslim community of Singapore. A large crowd came to pay their respects at Bukit Tungal, Thomson Road, where Syed Mohamed Alsagoff’s body was lying. The cortege wound its way to the deceased’s mosque in Java Road, Kampong Glam. A deep grave had been dug in the marble-floored annexe, and the remains of the late Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff were laid to rest beside those of his parents. As a mark of respect, all the public offices in Johor were closed and the flags at Raffles Hotel were flown at half-mast.
, leaving behind his family and a legacy certain to be remembered for generations to come. He is buried at the Alsagoff Family Burial Ground at Java Road Mosque in Singapore.
Principal of Alsagoff Arab School
Circa 1906
Syed Mohamed Alsagoff has made many munificent and lasting benefactions to Singapore. He founded and endowed the S.M.A. (Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed) Alsagoff Wakaf
A Wakaf means to protect a thing, to prevent it from becoming the property of a third person. This usually refers to the endowment of property and funds. There are three categories in Singapore: public Wakaf for charity, private Wakaf that endows funds to family and others, or a mix of the two. In Singapore, Hadhrami families, like the Alsagoffs, had very extensive Wakaf. For instance, much of the real estate in today’s central business district were once owned by Hadhrami families.
Funds and the Muslimin Trust Fund Association
The investments of the S.M.A. Alsagoff Wakaf Funds went towards the Muslimin Trust Funds Association, which allowed it to invest the surplus monies in the purchase of 99 brick shop houses in the best part of the city. The fund also went towards the maintenance of the Alsagoff Arab School and the ceremonies linked to the mosque of his grandmother, Hajjah Fatimah, at Java Road in Kampong Glam, Singapore.
. He was also the benefactor of the Alsagoff Arab School, the Alsagoff Outdoor Dispensary, and the Muslim Boys Orphanage. He will be remembered by the Arab and Muslim community for his grace and generosity in giving back to the community.
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