Thursday 8 April 2010

Student’s photograph project sheds light on history of Cardiff’s Muslim community

THE history of the oldest Muslim community in Britain is brought to life by these black and white images.

The pictures were gathered by postgraduate student Adila Golam Rassoude as she researched the history of the Yemeni community in Cardiff Bay.

They show the depth of community spirit and also reveal an intriguing story of a romance between a Welsh girl and a Yemeni man in the early 20th century.

Central St Martin’s College, London MA student Adila, 24, was drawn to Cardiff in her research assignment, Billad Al Welsh, which in Arabic means “Land of the Welsh”.

“The assumption is it was the Pakistani Muslims who first came to Britain but actually it was the Yemeni Muslims of Wales,” she said. “From 1908, there are Arabic names recorded in Bute Street. The Peel Street Mosque in Butetown, which opened in 1944, was also the first mosque in Britain to have held a community.”

After the Suez Canal was completed in 1869, it opened a passage for ships to travel to Europe, which led to many Yemeni seamen arriving in Cardiff.

Recovered photographs show vibrant parades celebrating the Islamic festival Eid in Butetown in 1937 and 1967, Sheikh Said as a young boxer who came to Butetown as a child and still lives there aged 80, and famous Butetown face Olive Salaman in 1945 with her husband Ali and their children.

Adila said: “Olive moved from the Rhymney Valley to Cardiff to train as a nurse when she was 16. When walking near the Bay looking for a cinema, Olive met Ali Salaman, a young Yemeni working as a chef in a local restaurant. Within three weeks of meeting, they married, before having 10 children and adopting two. They lived in Butetown for the rest of their lives.

“Ali and Olive bought a restaurant called the Cairo Cafe, on Bute Street, where they sold food for the seamen that arrived on the docks.”

Sheikh Hassan Udaini, who taught Arabic in the cafe, made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1966 and proudly carried the Welsh flag.

On a visit to Cardiff last week, Adila met Daoud Salaman and Sheikh Said, who work closely together in the Butetown community.


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