The majority of the Arabs in Singapore are Hadhramis tracing their ancestry from the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula called Hadhramaut, which is now part of the Republic of Yemen. The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen PDRY was formed on 30 November 1967 when it achieved independence after 129 years of British rule. Some of the people living there are known as “Hadhramis”. The land there is mostly desert region. The fertile areas, suitable for cultivation, are small and concentrated in the wadi region. This harsh natural environment drove the Hadhramis to travel out of the area to trade and acquire the necessary items they needed. They had travelled to and engaged in trade in several areas: Hyderabad, India (before 1947), Dar-es-Salaam and East Africa as well as Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies.
Ingram (1936) gave a description of the type of social classes of the Hadhramis. Among them were migrants from Iraq, the Seyyids (Syeds), who were descendants of the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad, Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali. The Syeds were well known for their education and influence over religious matters. Another social class, Sheikhs, was also influential in matters concerning religion. Both the Syeds and the Sheikhs formed the top of the social class in Hadhramaut. The Arabs in Singapore are descended from the Syeds and Sheikhs. As such, they carry the title of “Syed” and “Sharifah” (for men and women respectively) and "Sheikh" (also spelled “Shaikh”) and "Shaykhah" (also spelled "Shaikha") (for men and women respectively).
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