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Talks to declare Kramats a provincial heritage site

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There are approximately 23 kramats (shrines or tombs) in the Cape Town region that hold the remains of pious Muslim men known by some as the ‘friends of God’. These men have been laid to rest in the kramats because of the contribution that they made to Islamic identity in the Cape.

The Kramats are now looked after by the Cape Mazaar Society. This organisation ensures that these markers of history are well maintained and looked after so that Muslims from South Africa and from all over the world may be able to view the tombs.

However, the Kramat located at Signal Hill has come under threat from a few vandals in the area. This kramat is the resting place for Sheikh Mohamed Hassen Ghaibie, one of the followers of Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar. VOC News visited this burial site overlooking Cape Town’s panoramic views and found that small fixtures had either been removed or were worn off.

“The problem with the vandals is that they steal small things and they try to sleep in the Kramats at night,” explained Mahmoud Limbada, the chairperson of the Cape Mazaar Society.

“We cannot have security guards there 24/7 because it is a costly and we are a volunteer group,” he added.

The caretaker of the kramat on Signal Hill has called the police when he fears that the vandals are going to disturb the place, however he says that the cops are unwilling to help him.

“The police just pick them up and drop them in town and the next day they are back on the mountain,” Gaffer Ismail, the caretaker of the Signal Hill Mazaar explained.

 A damaged wall inside the kramat
A damaged wall inside the kramat

“The problem with Signal Hill is the fact that it stands by a World Heritage Site so we can’t build a small security box,” Limbada went further.

State of Kramats

According to Limbada, the kramats are under good governance.

“The problem with the Signal Hill Kramat is its remote location, but other than that the Kramats have caretakers which look after the buildings and maintain its upkeep.”

The money that is used for the maintenance is donated by the public and the organisation has a caretaker supervisor who deals with projects that the daily caretakers are unable to do.

A part of the carpet that has been removed
A part of the carpet that has been removed

Heritage Site

“We are currently talking to Heritage Western Cape to have the Kramats declared a provincial heritage site, thereby protecting it and preserving it,” Limbada said.

This, however, will be a lengthy process, but once declared, the Kramat on Signal Hill will be able to have proper security in order to ensure that no vandalism occurs on site.

The Kramats remain as markers of religious identity so the maintenance is of utmost importance to Muslims from the Cape and from around the world. VOC (Umarah Hartley)


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