New Islamic Centre finds a home in historic Mariam Bee complex in Overport

There’s a buzz of activity taking place at the Mariam Bee Centre and it’s all GOOD, writes Sana Ebrahim.

The Islamic Forum in association with the Mariam Bee Sultan Charitable Trust is currently undertaking an expansion and refurbishment to the historic Mariam Bee Centre in Overport, Durban. The plan is to turn it into an Islamic Centre with several specialist shops housed in the complex.

Located at 222 Kenilworth Road, the facility currently houses the Suleman Lockhat Auditorium, hall and offices of the Women’s Cultural Group (WCG), Mariam Bee Sultan Pre-school, and tuition classes.

New businesses in the new-look establishment include the Baitul Hikmah Islamic book and coffee shop; and a bakery called GOOD: Bread and Stuff that adds to the sensory attraction. A women’s wellness centre will open soon.

“Baitul Hikmah was launched in 2017 with the intention of making Islamic books affordable and accessible to the South African Muslim community. Alhamdulillah the online store has been very successful and has been a means of bringing our mission of reviving a culture of reading into fruition. I think, without bias, that we have the most extensive range of Islamic books in Durban, for both kids and adults.

“The idea of a coffee shop to go along with our bookstore has been in the pipelines for some time and we are very grateful to finally be able to bring it to life at the Mariam Bee community Centre.

“It is our hope that the new cafe and bookshop will be hub of activity for the whole family – where adults and children alike are encouraged to read and learn. Our long-term plans include book launches, study circles, community events and edutainment for children,” says Tazkiyyah Amra.

The centre was abuzz when GOOD: Bread and Stuff opened on Thursday 8 July. Baker Ryan van Rooyen says: “All goods are naturally leavened. We currently bake a range of sourdoughs, baguettes, ciabattas and focaccias. We have a monthly speciality loaf that includes the likes of jalapeño/cheddar and cinnamon/raisin. We also have a speciality focaccia that changes every two months. We are currently baking za’atar, red onion and feta”.

“We are immediately looking to increase our offerings to include additional items starting with pretzels and English muffins. In the next few months we are planning to start a once a month baking class. We also hope to expand our home delivery service.”

Fatima Vawda, who runs the wellness centre said: “In essence ‘Tribe Wellness’ is a baby of Skin Tribe which is currently a mobile ladies skin salon. Skin is my passion, and providing affordable but result-driven treatments is what I offer.”

“On the wellness side, I just want to bring women together. For as long as I can remember, I fully believe in women empowering women. I think if we work together we can achieve miracles.”

Regular Jumu`ah and Tarawih salah are performed at the centre with Shaykh Ismail Kamdar presenting the Jumu`ah khutbah.

The Islamic Forum is a non-profit organisation and the intention is to provide a Centre that will become economically self-sufficient. Already a hive of activity, the current renovations will foreground the Centre as an important landmark in Durban. The public has been donating generously towards the project but much is yet to be executed to realise the full potential of the property. Contributions towards the project can be tax deducted.

The Mariam Bee Sultan Madressah is one of the earliest established learning centres in Durban.

In 1962 Shaykh Ameer donated the property and house at 222 Kenilworth Road to the Mariam Bee Sultan Charitable Trust to run a madressah. When the existing tenants moved out, the Trust began holding classes in the almost century-old house. In 1968 the Trust built the double-storey structure to extend the facilities.

The centre holds great historical significance to the neighbourhood and the wider community. It is envisaged that the current restoration work the Islamic Forum has undertaken will uphold the legacy of the centre in continuing to serve the community.

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