On our last post of HGT explorers, we ventured into Cuba with Mohamed and friends. In the next three weeks, we shall cover interesting and thought-provoking stories from countries in Africa. We start with South Africa. South Africa is known for its breathtaking landscapes, intriguing safaris, rich culture, Nelson Mandela, and unfortunately Apartheid. It was a gruesome racist institution that started off in 1948. Although it ended 24 years ago, travelers can still see the effects of Apartheid in this beautiful country. Dilek is one of those travelers that got see that for herself. In this post; Dilek explores the social issues in South Africa and discusses their negative effects. She also shares with us tips on experiencing the beauty of South Africa and its culture.
Social Issues in South Africa: Why South Africa?
I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. I have a friend, Mishka Daries, from Cape Town who I got to know from work. I asked about the area and what I could do there. She told me that I could hike, swim, scuba dive, paraglide and do a safari. So I said yes I’m going!
While in SouthAfrican trip, I visited Cape Town, Simonstown, Cape Point, Stellenbosch, and Kleinmond. I didn’t necessarily travel alone during my trip there. I had locals friends who traveled with me. Safety in Cape town varies according to the areas visited. There are areas where you definitely need to travel by car with a local because the crime rate is very high. The locals know exactly which areas to avoid.
Social Issues in South Africa: Impressions of South Africa and the African Continent in general
Upon arriving South Africa, I was immediately impressed by the landscape, the different tones and shades of the mountains (it was as if they were from another world), the color of the Atlantic Ocean, the freshness of the air and most of all, the liveliness of the people.
However, I was also upset when I saw the Khayelitsha township, a ghetto where black South Africans live. The residents live in cramped, unhygienic conditions. They were forced to move there at the beginning of the Apartheid Regime in 1948 and still live there. What puzzles me is that there are also colored people in the government who are supposed to have power. But what are they doing there to end this dilemma? Apartheid is the sad history of oppression that has led to many current problems. From 1948 till 1994 the white South African government had a systematic plan to separate its people based on race with an effort to ensure white superiority. White and Colored neighborhoods were separated by law. Non-whites were stripped of all political freedoms and were given a bad education. As I traveled through South Africa I noticed that the separation by race is still ongoing in so many levels.
Because I didn’t learn about Apartheid in school, I had a lot of questions about apartheid and other social issues in South Africa, after my trip: Why did it start? What were the struggles? Who were the main activists? How is the current situation and why are there still problems there?
South Africa: Culture, Food, Language, and Travel
Here are some South African and Cape town itinerary tips to get you started:
South African Food
The traditional South African food has a lot of Malaysian and Indonesian influence. A dish that all tourists or travelers must try before leaving South Africa is having a South-African grill or braai (Usually meat) See Why South African Braais are better than BBQ. You should also try the delicious traditional dessert, Cape Malay koeksisters. The Cape Malay Koeksisters are sticky spicy treats comprising of milk, ginger, cinnamon, butter, and coconut. They shouldn’t be mistaken for the other South African Koeksisters which is of Dutch influence.
South African Language
The official language of South Africa is English. However, there are many other languages spoken there; Afrikaans, Xhosa, Tsonga, Southern Soweto, Swati, and many more.
South Africa has a “put together” language called “Afrikaans”. Because South Africa was a former Dutch then a British colony, the language sounds like a mixture of Dutch and English.
South African Tourism
Every traveler has to take the cable car to Table Mountain to enjoy the view of Cape Town. And an absolute must is to go to Cape Point, the place where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. You can go to watch the whales in Hermanus, keep in mind there are seasons for whale sighting. Hike in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and explore South Africa’s numerous beaches.
Effects of Islam in South Africa
I would consider South Africa a Muslim friendly country. There a lot of Halal places to eat especially in Cape Town. I recommend Mariams Kitchen.
It wasn’t easy to find mosques to pray in the city center however you can check here for information on mosque locations in South Africa. I noticed that the religious dialogue works out in the so-called “mixed faith” or “mainly Muslim” areas. In other areas, it might be difficult to notice Islamic presence.
What surprised me in Cape Town was the presence of a Muslim cemetery. While wandering across the cemetery I saw that First names were Islamic/Arabic names and the last names were western names. The explanation for this is that Muslims from Malaysia and Indonesia were brought as slaves by ship. The Malay and Indonesian slaves took the last names of their masters or they were named according to the month they arrived at the Cape Town harbor. An example of such a name is Mohammed April.
Prior to my South African trip, I never knew that Malaysian and Indonesian people were also among the slaves in South Africa. I thought that it was just dark-skinned Africans. My local friends there told me how Islam came to Cape Town. Tuan Guru, an Indonesian exile, wrote the first Quran from memory while he was in prison. Today his family still has this Quran at home. The first mosque was built in South Africa in 1794 by the exiled Tuan Guru who brought Islam to South Africa. Another influential figure is Abubakr Efendi, an Ottoman scholar. He was sent in 1862 by Sultan Abdulaziz to Cape Town to establish an ottoman theology school. He established the Islamic education of the South African Muslims. In 1880, he died in Cape Town.
Inspirational individuals in the Muslim and South African community
This power woman was my host here in Cape Town. Her name is Nazreen Salie and she is a Heritage activist and an International halal events agent. She founded her company Cape Malay Consultants in 2006 that aims to introduce the South African culture to the world. Nazreen represents Malaysia in South Africa for events and organizations such as the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS), Halal Fiesta ASEAN (HalFest ASEAN), Malaysia International Islamic Lifestyle Secretariat South Africa (MILE), OIC’s Muslim World Biz. Nazreen dedicates her life to making people aware of the history of South Africa and that people never ever forget what happened during the Apartheid Regime. I joined the Women’s Forum of the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa. They were preparing donations for kids and babies to be sent to the Refugee Camps in Haran & Kilis in Turkey. Another fact that surprised me is that the Muslims here in Cape Town have a neighborhood watch together with non-Muslims. They would even watch each other’s houses during Friday prayers and on Sunday during the service.
I met Shanaaz Ebrahim Gire, a former journalist. She is an Aid worker at Islamic Relief. She also teaches field staff and donor receivers journalism in order to share real stories with the beneficiaries.
Another power Woman I met in Cape Town was, Fatiema Haron Masoet, daughter of Imam Abdullah Haron Rahimullah. Imam Abdullah Haron was arrested and tortured by the Apartheid Regime in prison and died on the 27th of September in 1969. Imam Abdullah Haron dedicated his life for equality among races, women & youth empowerment. He also fought against the Apartheid Regime. His daughter Fatiema Haron-Masoet keeps his legacy alive by dedicating her life to carry on the Imam Abdullah Haron education trust to educate the underprivileged across South Africa. The killing of the Imam“ written by Barney Desai and Cardiff Marney reflects the life of Imam Abdullah Haron.
I visited the former prison on Robben Island, where anti-Apartheid activists were kept, tortured and killed; among them Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years on this Island. I was honored to get to know Itumeleng, a former prisoner who now works as a guide. He told me that him working as a guide in the former prison had a major influence to overcome his psychological trauma.
There is still a way to heal the wounds of the Apartheid Regime in South Africa. One step would be that students learn the full true story of what their grandparents and parents went through and how to deal with this situation so that it will never ever happen again.
Social Issues in South Africa: Final Thoughts
What impressed me (landscape, people, activities) about South Africa are the things that made me love the country. I especially loved the colorful Bo-Kaap area, and enjoying some refreshing air by the Indian Ocean.
In South Africa, the 27th of April is the national holiday, “Freedom Day”. I did not notice any flags nor shields that told the public that it is freedom day or why people have to remember Freedom Day. For those who don’t know: on the 27th of April 1994, colored people were allowed to vote for the first time in South Africa. I think everyone should know this about South Africa.
Dilek Yücel, born and raised in Vienna/Austria, completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Medical Computer Sciences at the Vienna University of Technology. After her graduation, she worked as a Research Assistant at a national technology institute. Dilek taught maths and computer sciences at secondary school level while being a youth mentor. She also completed a Project Management course, became a certified Gender and Diversity trainer and joined the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship Programme at Cambridge University in the field of innovative entrepreneurship and social sciences. Currently, she works as a Project Manager in Turkey’s English-speaking public broadcaster TRT WORLD. Being an activist Dilek speaks up for equal opportunities in the education system and stands up against women’s discrimination, Xenophobia, and Islamophobia.
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I’m a Malay myself (from Malaysia) and it is really fascinating to read about Malay communities outside of Southeast Asia, especially in such a far-flung place like South Africa, considering the perilous journey it took to travel there by ship.
How are Muslims treated and seen in post-apartheid South Africa?