Amongst the earliest inhabitants of Port Elizabeth, was a group of Muslims foremost amongst whom was one, Fortuin Weys, of which the following has been written:
But the most famous entrepreneur was a Malay, Fortuin Weys, whose house was among the first to be built in Port Elizabeth, and who became one of the wealthiest residents of the town”.
The first mosque to be built in Port Elizabeth was the Grace Street Mosque to serve the growing Muslim community which previously had to travel to Uitenhage for Friday prayers. Hence it is the oldest mosque erected in Port Elizabeth. Another mosque, in close proximity to this one, would later be built viz the Strand Street Mosque
Main picture: The Strand Street Mosque. To imagine the scale of the building, imagine that a fully-grown man would only take half of the height of the front door.
As Jon Inggs acknowledges in his enlightening thesis on the development of the harbour until 1870, “Nothing was done to improve landing facilities at Algoa Bay before 1820 apart from setting up a flagpost on the landing beach with the dual role of marker and signal as to whether it was safe to land or not”.
What would be done, if anything, over the first decade from 1820 to 1830 in order to improve matters for shipping in Algoa Bay?
Main picture: Port Elizabeth from the shipping in 1850 by HWHC Piers [NMM Art Museum]
As David Raymer points out in his excellent book on the water supply to Port Elizabeth entitled ‘Streams of Life’, “until 1880 the greatest problem [that] the settlement of Port Elizabeth faced was the question of a dependable and adequate supply of fresh water for the residents”.
This blog covers the first attempt to address this challenge.
Main picture: One of the original wells in Port Elizabeth
One misconception about the Malays in South Africa concerns the nomenclature “Malay.” In fact they originate from Indonesia. However, for simplicity’s sake, we will continue to use the word Malay for the purposes of this chapter. Another erroneous notion is that Malay population only arrived after the British settlers.
This chapter rebuts these fallacies. It also reveals the important role the Malays played in the development of Port Elizabeth.
Main picture: The Green or Pier Street Mosque