Voice of the Cape

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Tana Baru Cape Town, a Photo-Essay

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Established in 1805, the Tana Baru (which means “new ground”) was South Africa’s first official Islamic burial site. For 200 years previously, Muslim burials had been “unofficial”. It was closed in 1886, not without protest, after the smallpox epidemic. Today the Tana Baru Trust administers the cemetery as a memorial to local history. All photos copyright Shafiq Morton.

The tombs of Tuan Guru (left) and Tuan Sayyid Alawi (right), Tana Baru, Cape Town, South Africa.
Tuan Sayyid Álawi, a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), hailed from Mocha in Yemen. After being imprisoned as an exile, he became a policeman and confidante of the slaves in the lodge at the bottom of Adderley Street.
Pages from the Qurán hand written from memory on Robben Island by Tuan Guru in the late 18th century.
The symbolic structure that houses the tomb of Tuan Guru, Imam Qadi Abdus Salam, a scholar and Prince of Tidore with Moroccan ancestry, who built SA’s first mosque and established its first madrasah in 1798. He was imprisoned on Robben Island by the Dutch and wrote the Qurán from memory.
Tuan Nuruman, Tana Baru, Cape Town.
The burial place of Tuan Nuruman, a 19th century imam and holy man of spiritual powers, who was imprisoned on Robben Island.
A marked grave in the Tana Baru.
An identifiable grave overlooks the vista of Table Mountain and the Bo Kaap, where the first Muslims lived in Cape Town in the 17th century.
The Lutherans, like the Muslims, were prohibited from freedom of worship by the Dutch statutes of India. This church, in a surviving pocket of historical Cape Town seen from the Tana Baru, was disguised as a barn.
Grave under a gumtree with city backdrop.
Engraved slate headstone, Tana Baru.
Shaikh Naazim Ádil al-Haqqani from Cyprus visited the Tana Baru in 1998.
Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki from Makkah visited the tomb of Tuan Sayyid Alawi in 1997.

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