Cape Town for Muslim Travelers
South Africa’s jewel, Cape Town, is frequently recognized as one of the best cities in the world. But there’s another accolade to its name: it’s an incredibly welcoming city for Muslims. Indeed, South Africa ranks sixth on CrescentRating’s list of countries outside the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in terms of Muslim-friendliness.
A Glimpse into the Past
The Cape’s Muslim roots trace back to the 17th century when the majority arrived as slaves from regions like the Dutch East Indies, present-day Indonesia. Among the pioneers was Shaykh Yusuf (`Abidin Tadia Tjoessoep), exiled to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch. He’s widely known for introducing Islam to the Cape, and his resting place in Macassar, close to Cape Town, is a cherished kramat (holy shrine). Today, these brightly decorated and well maintained kramats draw numerous Cape Town locals.
South Africa’s rich history has cultivated a diverse population. The Cape Malays are a significant Muslim community with roots tracing back to Indonesian and Malaysian slaves brought over by the Dutch. This history manifests itself through Cape Town’s vibrant Bo-Kaap neighbourhood with its bright pastel-coloured homes, mosques, and authentic Cape Malay cuisine.
The country is home to some of the oldest mosques in the Southern Hemisphere. The Auwal Mosque in Cape Town, established in 1794, is the country’s first mosque.
The growing Muslim population means there’s a plethora of Halal dining options. From Cape Malay dishes like bobotie and biryani to sumptuous African meat dishes, there is an abundance of Halal-certified restaurants in Cape Town.
Exploring Cape Town
Here are some of Cape Town’s most popular attractions. See more of the best things to do in Cape Town here.
- Table Mountain stands as Cape Town’s signature landmark. Whether you choose to hike or take the cable car, the reward is a stunning 360-degree view of the city.
- Robben Island, once Nelson Mandela’s prison home for 18 years, is a must-visit. Tickets to this UNESCO site get snapped up quickly, so plan ahead. The island also houses a significant kramat.
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a lush paradise at Table Mountain’s base, perfect for picnics and panoramic views.
- Bo-Kaap, with its vibrant houses, offers a glimpse into the city’s Muslim heritage. Take guided tours, explore museums, or even join cooking classes.
- Castle of Good Hope, the oldest colonial landmark in South Africa, promises rich history, tours, and even cannon-fire displays.
- Beaches: With a lineup from penguin-populated Boulders Beach to picturesque Muizenberg, Cape Town’s coastlines are a treat, and women can wear their burkinis.
- V&A Waterfront isn’t just for shoppers. There’s an aquarium, activities for youngsters, boat rides, and a wide selection of halaal eateries.
Cape Town’s Culinary Delights
Finding halaal food in Cape Town is a breeze. See some of the best halaal restaurants in Cape Town here.
Getting around Cape Town
The hop-on-hop-off bus offers an easy way to explore the major sights. Alternatively, you can opt for Uber, taxis, or public transport.
Spiritual Spaces in Cape Town
Cape Town, has several mosques that are not only significant from a religious perspective but also offer a glimpse into the city’s cultural and historical tapestry. Here are some of the most notable mosques in Cape Town. Visiting these historical mosques not only caters to spiritual needs but also offers insight into the deep-rooted Islamic history in the region.
- Auwal Mosque: Situated in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, the Auwal Mosque holds the title of being the first mosque established in South Africa. It was founded in the late 18th century by Imam Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salaam, known as Tuan Guru.
- Masjidul Quds (Gatesville Mosque): Located in the suburb of Gatesville, this mosque is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, accommodating thousands of worshippers. It is particularly noteworthy for its impressive architecture and its minaret that stands out in the city skyline.
- Nurul Islam Mosque: Another gem in Bo-Kaap, the Nurul Islam Mosque, established in the 19th century, plays a significant role in the community’s socio-religious life.
- Jamia Mosque: Located in Chiappini Street, this mosque is a prominent religious site in the Bo-Kaap area and is known for its beautiful architecture and serene ambiance.
- Masjid Shafee (Chiappini Street Mosque): Located in the heart of Bo-Kaap, this mosque, established in the 19th century, is an integral part of the community and stands as a testament to the Islamic heritage of the area.
When visiting any mosque, it’s essential to remember to dress modestly and be aware of prayer times, as some mosques may restrict tourist visits during these times. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to check in advance if visitors are allowed, especially for non-Muslims, to ensure you’re respectful of local customs and practices.
Where to stay in Cape Town
The Hyatt Regency Bo-Kaap is a luxury hotel in the Bo-Kaap area and it has a halaal-certified restaurant. See more information here or book other accommodation here.