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July 25, 2012

Ten historic gravesites in Cape Town

The tree-lined Maitland Cemetery where the former premier of the Cape Colony, Sir Thomas Upington, is buried. Photo courtesy Rabbit in A Hat Communications

Tombstone tourists will find Cape Town interesting ground for exploration, with the eras of the Mother City’s history offering diverse sites for cemetery enthusiasts to discover.

The first notable burial in Cape Town’s history was that of Rev. Joan van Arckel. In the early days of the Cape settlement, notable figures were buried inside church buildings and thus a place of worship was provided inside the Castle of Good Hope. Rev. van Arckel was laid to rest at this place of worship in the incomplete Castle in January 1666.

Some of Cape Town’s cemeteries, open to this day, are home to the remains of South Africans including the first prime minister of the Cape Colony from 1872 to 1878, Sir John Molteno, who rests in the Claremont cemetery; Sir Thomas Upington, premier of the Cape Colony between 1884 and 1886, buried at Maitland cemetery; Sir Gordon Sprigg, four-time prime minister during 1878 and 1904, and John X Merriman, the last prime minister of the Cape Colony (1908-1910), at Mowbray cemetery.

St. Saviours Church and Cemetery in Claremont. Photo courtesy Rabbit in A Hat Communications

Colonel John Graham was famous as the founder of Grahamstown in 1814. He died in Wynberg in March 1821 and was buried in the Somerset Road Cemetery, which has since been levelled, however, a window was erected in his memory at St Saviour’s Church in Claremont.

The Kramat of Sheikh Yusuf of Bantam can be found in Macassar. Sheikh Yusuf is said to be the father of Islam in South Africa and his Kramat is an important holy shrine for followers of the faith.

Kramat Sheikh Mohamed Hassen Ghaibie Shah al Qadri at Signall Hill. Photo courtesy Rabbit In A Hat Communications

The Kramat Sheikh Mohamed Hassen Ghaibie Shah al Qadri, a follower of Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar, can be found on Signal Hill.

The Kramats of Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe and Sayed Mahmud are located in Constantia. Both were spiritual and religious leaders who became political prisoners of the Dutch East Company. They arrived in May 1668, after being banished to Constantia in the Cape.

Gugulethu Cemetery is home to the graves of well-known heroes and heroines of the apartheid struggle such as Oscar Mpetha, the Gugulethu Seven and Pro Jack.

So if you are drawn to the legacies of the long gone, Cape Town will unfold their histories in quiet places of memory.

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