Muslims around the Cape are gearing up for a day of celebration and religious observance on Friday 1 September 2017 in the wake of Eid al-Adha.

This Eid, known as the ‘Sacrificial Feast’ is the second of two Muslim holidays celebrated each year and is considered the holier of the two. While many may be familiar with the significance of Eid-ul-Fitr, celebrated after the holy month of Ramadan, Eid-al-Adha  seems to receive much less attention and can often be overlooked in comparison. As the celebration of Eid and Islamic customs are deeply ingrained in the culture and origins of Cape Town, we’ve put together an inclusive guide for anyone who wants to partake in the festivities and to shed some light on the meaning behind the day.

Why it is celebrated

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijja, one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar and marks the end of the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca – a journey that all Muslims who have the means should embark upon at least once in their lifetime.

The act of sacrifice is another important aspect of the day, borne from the story of the Prophet Abraham. Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice the thing that was dearest to him: his son. This was a test, yet Abraham didn’t hesitate to obey this command. As he got ready to do so, God replaced the boy with a ram. To this day, it is tradition for muslims to sacrifice lamb, sheep, cows and camels for the Eid celebration in order to commemorate Abraham’s deed and honour his devotion to God. This is done in a manner that is quick and humane in order to mitigate any suffering endured by the animal.

As per custom, the meat obtained from the sacrifice is divided into three parts: one part to be shared with family, friends and neighbours, another part to be distributed to the poor and needy, while the third part is kept for yourself and immediate family members. As Eid extends over three days, the act of sacrifice can take place up two days after Eid al -Adha has been celebrated.

What happens on the day

The day of Eid begins with a special congregational prayer that is offered early in the morning at the local mosque in different areas. This is followed by a short sermon delivered by a learned Islamic scholar or Imam. It is customary for those observing the day to dress smartly in clean or new clothing.

The day is spent in the company of family, friends and neighbours, and it is also an ideal time to visit the burial site of family members who have passed away and those who are sickly. Usually, the lunch time meal is a highly anticipated and exquisite feast of traditional Cape Malay or Indian dishes. Families gather to dine together while the rest of the day is divided between seeing distant relatives or catching up with friends.

How you can get involved

For non-muslims looking to join in on the celebration, visiting Muslim friends or even acquaintances will give you the most authentic experience of the day. As Eid is a day of sharing and good-will, many Muslims would be happy to welcome guests of all faiths and backgrounds into their home – and you’ll definitely recieve some food parcels and sweet treats to take home.

If you’d like, you could accompany someone to the mosque to observe the Eid prayer or listen to the talk afterwards or do some exploring on your own by visiting these historical sites:

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap, also known as the Malay Quarter, is a multi-cultural district filled with cobbled streets, colourful houses, mosques, restaurants and corner shops. The streets are usually bustling with people and will be particularly atmospheric on Eid day. Here you can muse at the interesting sights, appetizing aromas and men and women dressed in traditional Islamic attire. The Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum in Wale Street is a great source of information to learn more about the area. The small-house museum is one of the oldest examples of Cape Dutch architecture in the Cape and displays a range of artifacts and exhibitions relating to Islamic culture and the history of Cape Town.

The first mosque in South Africa, known as the Auwal Mosque and opened by the exiled Indonesian Prince, Tuan Guru lies just around the corner in Dorp Street. This is another must-visit and although it is usually closed to non-worshippers, tours can be arranged with the museum or local tour groups. The grave site of Tuan Guru is also situated in the Bo-Kaap in the Tana Baru burial and historical grounds.

Cape Malay Eateries 

Cape Malay food is a fusion of Malaysian, Indonesian as well as Indian cooking traditions that dates back to the 17th and 18th century slave trade. Food is a major component to the Eid festivities and there are numerous family run restaurants populated in the city where you can try the best in home-style Cape Malay cuisine. Here are some of our favourite spots to indulge in a spicy curry or tasty briyani.

Bo-Kaap Kombuis – 7 August Street, Bo-Kaap, + 27 (0) 21 422 5446
Biesmiellah Restaurant – 2 Wale Street and Pentz Street, Schotsche Kloof, +27 (0) 21 423 08 50
Eastern Food Bazaar – 96 Longmarket Street, Cape Town,+27 (0) 21 461 2458
Jiah – 70 New Church Street, Cape Town, +27 (0) 21 707 1001

Visit the historic Kramats around Cape Town

Kramats are tombs of holy Muslim men who were instrumental in consolidating and spreading Islam around the Cape between the 17th and 19th centuries. There are more than 20 recognized Kramats around the Cape Peninsula. Some of the most renowned sites include Sheik Yusuf of Macassar, who’s site is located in Faure and the Kramat of Sheik Noorul Mubeen which lies at the top of 99 steps that ascend from Victoria Road overlooking the Atlantic Seaboard. Other notable tombs lie in Klein Constantia, Signal Hill and Robben Island.

Photography Rodger Bosch/Pixabay

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