Part of Jalan Bukit Bintang has been transformed into a mini-Arab town over the past 5 or 10 years. It has been quite an intriguing trend.

Arab restaurants and tourists are not uncommon along the stretch between the Pavilion and beyond Jalan Raja Chulan. They like Malaysia for various reasons and it is easy to see that they are a wealthy bunch, fitting the general stereotype assigned by the locals to those originating from the Gulf quite nicely.

But in recent weeks, something extraordinary has been happening. I am beginning to spot Arab women and their children begging on the streets on Jalan Bukit Bintang.

The first time I noticed them, I found myself feeling incredulous, feeling that this must have had been some kind of a prank. Many beggars all around the city are linked to some kind of syndicates. Some are manipulating public sentiment for disagreeable personal gains while others are truly desperate in need of help. The prevalence of syndicate-related beggars and the second group of people make me suspicious of these Arab beggars.

But yesterday, I spotted a woman in her black purdah without a face veil sitting on the floor just outside the newly renovated Isetan store in Lot 10. He held a small placard, telling passerby that she was from Syria and she needed money.

I do not how true her claim is but my heart melted nonetheless.


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