Did you know that Singapore was supposedly named after a lion? Or that the island was in fact first discovered by a Prince who was almost shipwrecked in a massive storm?
Singapore may be a small and considerably young country in comparison to other countries but it sure does have many interesting facts that should fascinate kids, and even adults too.
- Singapore is one of the few countries in the world to be considered an island, a city and a state all at the same time. It is also one of the three countries in the world to be considered a city-state, with the other two being Monaco and Vatican City.
- Singapore was previously named Temasek before the 14th century. The word Temasek meant “Sea Town” in the Javanese language. Temasek was the first ever recorded name of this island.
- In the 14th century, the island was renamed to Singapura. The name change came about after a Srivijayan prince, named Sang Nila Utama, came to the then-Temasek’s shore with the plans to start a new city and saw a strange animal with an orange body and black head, which he was advised by his men was probably a lion. He then renamed the island to “Singapura”, with “Singa” meaning lion in Malay and “Pura” meaning city in Sanskrit. As such, the name Singapura translated into English means “Lion City”.
- Long before all the buildings and skyscrapers emerged, Singapore was actually a fishing village with many stilt houses built over water. The people of Singapore earned a livelihood trading their catch of the day and travelled around the island in little wooden boats called “sampan”.
- Singapore’s national language is Malay, not English or Mandarin as many often mistake it to be. This is because Singapore was initially a Malay settlement. The national anthem of Singapore and military commands are also maintained in Malay. However, English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil are recognized as the official languages of Singapore and almost every Singaporean speaks English.
- In 1819, a British statesman, Sir Stamford Raffles, arrived in Singapore and signed a treaty with the then ruling Sultan Hussein Shah to govern the island. As such, prior to Singapore’s independence in 1965, the island was under the British monarchy. All the major decisions affecting the country were made many kilometers away in England!
- During World War Two, Singapore was invaded by the Japanese and for almost three years and was renamed to “Syonan-to”, which meant Light of the South.
- The popular Merlion that you see in Sentosa and along the Singapore River is actually a mythical creature that was created to represent the country. The lion head signifies the lion city that Singapore was named after and the fish body and tail is to symbolize the fishing village that Singapore once was.
- Singapore has a population of only 5.2 million as of 2012. The country is mainly populated by the Chinese, about 74.5%, followed by 14% Malays, 9.5% Indians and 3% other races.
- The country has numerous places of attractions targeted for children (and adults too) such as Universal Studios Singapore, the Singapore Zoological Garden, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and others. Singapore also has the largest rotating observation deck in the world, called the Singapore Flyer.
- In Singapore, it is compulsory for all boys who have turned 18 to enlist for national service for two years.
- In Singapore, there is one day (October 1) dedicated to children, up to the age of 12. Schools will be closed on that day (or the last Friday of the week) and more often than not; children are spoilt with gifts and treats from their parents and teachers on that day. For those above 12, there is a day dedicated to them called Youth Day, which is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month of July, and is also a school holiday.
- Students studying in primary and secondary schools enjoy two long one-month holidays in June and December. They are also given one-week vacations in March and September.
- Singapore is made up of one main island and 63 smaller islands around it. There is an island called Pulau Semakau that has been designated as a landfill and is filled with only the ashes of incinerated rubbish!