KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsBrook Street Cemetery
Where? Brook Street Cemetery, west end, central Durban
Brook Street Cemetery lies in the west end of Durban's city centre, alongside the Victoria Street, Early Morning and Brook Street markets (part of the Markets of Warwick tour; a highlight of any visit to Durban).
The historical cemetery has been encompassed by West Street Cemetery, lying in its far western corner, closest to Berea Station.
What makes it so interesting, besides its significance as one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, is its function as a communal burial place for Muslim, Jewish, Parsee and Christian denominations.
Famous people buried at Brook Street Cemetery include Thomas Baines and anti-apartheid activist Rick Turner, assassinated in 1978.
Known as the Brook Street Edge, this part of the cemetery now forms part of the hubbub of Warwick, overlooked by trading stores and an elevated passageway. To one end is an informal taxi pick up with food stands sprawling onto the pavements.
Dominating the cemetery is the shrine to the Muslim saint, Badsha Peer Mazza– its roof and turrets the focus of an annual week-long ceremony and banquet that has taken place here every year since 1943.
Right outside the gates of the Brook Street Cemetery is a vibrant, boisterous market – shoes, woven berets, bags and household products lie alongside cheerful pinafores and Zulu hats beneath a shaded roof donated to the market by the Mazaar Society as part of the market's redevelopment.
In exchange the market suspends trade during the annual ceremony at the shrine.
Brook Street cemetery is dominated by Muslim burial sites, with a little walled space for Jewish and Parsee graves. The greater West Street cemetery is further subdivided into Hindu, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan (Methodist), Church of England and Christian sections.
On the edge of the cemetery is the Roman Catholic Emmanuel Cathedral, whilst the Gandhi library and Central Mosque (Juma Masjid Mosque) lie within walking distance. As a result of this tolerant religious mix, plans are afoot to turn the area into a 'spiritual precinct' with UNESCO heritage site status.
Alongside the Emmanuel Cathedral the newly complete Denis Hurley Centre (named after the the Archbishop and champion of social justice who died just over 10 years ago) serves the community with a clinic, and training for homeless, refugees and the unemployed. Other spiritual buildings in the vicinity include the Surat Hindu Building, and the Islamic Propagation Centre International.