The Chinese and the Arabs make up a significant portion of the population in Surabaya. It is then not surprising to know that both groups of people have a place that they can call their home away from home. Just like the Chinese having a Chinatown in Surabaya, the city also has its version of Arab town. The Surabaya Arab Quarter is specially marked by its famous market, Pasar Ampel.
Pasar Ampel is the Arab market of the city of Surabaya and is famous because of its huge size. The market is also known as the Center for Middle East market because most of the traded goods are typically found in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, the market is found inside the Arab quarter, which is locally known as the Kampung Arab because of the large population of Arabians who live in the area. Unique Arabic houses made of bamboo line the streets of the quarter with architecture mostly reminiscent of the colonial times.
Surabaya is a city blessed with huge shopping malls and centers, but shopping in Pasar Ampel provides a unique change from the usual shopping complexes seen around town. Pasar Ampel is a huge market full of several goodies. From perfumes, to prayer beads, to dates, to raisins, you can find anything and everything the Arabs most particularly specialize in. Tourists will certainly find several goods at this market especially when it comes to Arabian carpeting. All in all, the Pasar Ampel is a great market to find souvenirs and gifts for loved ones to bring back home.
Now aside from the market being a great tourist attraction to get a good share of souvenirs, the market is also frequented by Surabaya locals for a variety of daily needs. Indonesians can get their share of clothes, household needs, vegetables and spices all at the market. Aside from the architecture, goods and the heavy Arabic environment of the market, most people come here to taste authentic Arabic food. There are plenty of restaurants near Pasar Ampel that serve delectable dishes using the most aromatic herbs and spices around.
At the end of the narrow alley of Pasar Ampel is the Sunan Ampel mosque and gravesite that is frequented by many Muslims in Surabaya. But the real focus of this place is not the mosque but the tomb. Sunan Ampel was one of the Muslim Saints of Java. This tomb is visited by many pilgrims to offer their prayers to the grave itself. Dozens of people are then seen sitting cross-legged around the tombstone making it one of the most sought-after destinations in Surabaya.
As expected, the market is crowded during Ramadan, especially during the eve of Eid Ul-Fitr. It then makes it a famous destination for religious tourism. It functions as a religious emporium that offers anything remotely Islamic from a bag of Tunisian dates to a carved Pakistani Koran. The Pasar Ampel then provides its visitors the perfect touch of Arabic flavor, making them feel the exotic Arab atmosphere in Surabaya city.