Al-Azhar Masjied

Religious in or near District Six, City Bowl in Cape Town, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsAl-Azhar Masjied

Where? Keizersgracht Street, Zonnebloem, Cape Town

Overnight? Accommodation in District Six, in Western Cape

The Al Azhar Mosque is an Islamic mosque in District Six, Cape Town. It holds the same name as a rather resplendent more-famous mosque in Cairo, Egypt but what it lacks in minarets, it makes up for with position, for the mosque of Cape Town lies right in the heart of one of the city's former 'grey areas' of the apartheid era - District Six.

District Six was an inner-city suburb at the foot of Table Mountain. It is bounded by Sir Lowry Road to the north, Tennant Road to the west, De Waal Drive south of it, and Cambridge Street to the east.

District Six, though, is no longer there. Most of it has been absorbed by the suburbs of Walmer Estate, Zonnebloem and Lower Vrede. Only a tiny portion of the original Victorian-style neighbourhood remains.

Between 1966 and 1980 (it took 15 years) the Group Areas Act enabled the government to forcibly remove 60 000 residents from District Six, which was labelled a 'whites-only' area. Homes (1 800 of them) were razed to the ground and a hugely diverse (racially, religiously and tolerance-wise) community was destroyed.

District Six has been described as a cosmopolitan area where a complete mix of people lived, from all walks of life (from priests to politicians, from fishermen to prostitutes). It was poor, and overcrowding was bad but it was a hive of activity with streets rich with bakeries, butcher shops, clothing retailers and old Victorian houses. People remember a vibrancy. The rich mix of cultures meant that the area was a seedbed of opinions, thought and enterprise. A threat to apartheid.

The government changed the name to Zonnebloem and left only a few churches and mosques to act as a memorial of what once was. Worse still they renamed the new townships on the Cape flats after road names of the former District Six Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Tyne Court.

As if the void was too loaded to fill, the land in town remained undeveloped; a blight right alongside De Waal Drive, nothing more than 91 hectares of empty land and a grassy hillside. A feature of the drive in to Cape Town.

Al Azhar Mosque, in Aspeling Street, is the oldest mosque in District Six, founded in 1887.

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