The first ‘Malay’ Muslims in Cape Town.
The history of Muslims started before 1652 but it is mostly still unknown.
In 1652 when Jan Van Riebeek landed in Cape Town , it is believed that some individuals including a ship’s doctor were Muslims. The history of the Malay Muslims in South Africa (so-called Cape Malays ) started at the time of the 1st colonization of the Cape by the Dutch East India Company. The first group of Muslims were brought to Cape Town in 1657. They were 12 slaves from Madagascar and Java (part of Indonesia ). The following year, 1658, it was a group of African Muslims from Angola . From that time numerous ships with slaves were brought regularly by the Dutch. The Cape soon became the centre of competition between the European countries interested in very profitable slave and spice trades. Due to this, the Cape earned for itself the title “Tavern of the Seas”.
The Muslims who were mostly political prisoners, and considered by the Dutch as undesirable, were deported from Batavia and other Dutch colonies. The number of Muslims increased tremendously during the 18th century, including many Muslims from India who came as indentured workers and businessmen with their families. Many of those Muslms who arrived here as contract workers, managed to save some money and began their own businesses in South Africa .
Traditional Food of Cape Malays
In general Malays were excellent cooks. Soon they rightfully gained a very good reputation in cooking and baking skills and were employed by the Dutch. In the process of learning the foreign recipes they added their traditional ingredients that greatly enhanced the Dutch’s and others’ national meals. Some Euro-Malay dishes and delicacies are very popular until today: for example, milk tarts are now so widely available and popular among all communities that it is almost a MUST in all shops, including even the biggest South African supermarkets.
Spices were the basis for trade between the East and the West and it influenced the food in South Africa . Indian finger-licking dishes and Malay skillfully prepared delicious meals and a variety of European recipes from all over the world makes Capetonian food very unique and suitable to any taste and any food/ health habits. In today’s largest supermarkets, prestigious restaurants, regular cafes, small stores and even in outside stalls and mobile shops one can always find Halaal food. The food aspect plays an important role in Capetonian Muslim life and Muslims are tempted to eat out – as almost everywhere food is halaal and very tasty. Take-aways and fast delivery are also widely available. Even on Fridays after Juma Salaah tasty and inexpensive food is on sale – not only to gain fund-raising but also in order to give Muslim women an opportunity to come and gain knowledge by listening to inspirational lectures in the mosque instead of spending many hours in the kitchen on the sacred day of the week.
In some mosques musallees (people who regularly visit this particular mosque) – take turns in the opportunity to do a righteous deed – to provide Jumu’a food for sale as a fund-raising event.
Considering that such occasional revolving turns are infrequent, many ladies are freed of cooking on Fridays all year around except when it is their turn.
Moreover this food is prepared with an intention for donations, fund-raising for needy and poor, for educational needs in madressa in the mosque.
Muslim women here are greatly respected and treated with high appreciation, and are usually provided by their husbands with a domestic worker – so that the wife can have more time for education, family and herself.