The museum was created as a reminder of the rich Muslim culture that existed in Simon's Town from the time of the Dutch East India Company winter anchorage until the forced removals of more than 7000 people under the Group Areas Act.
The Heritage Museum was established in Amlay House (built in 1858), which belonged to the Amlay family of Simon's Town until they were forcibly removed from the town when it was declared a white group area on 1 September 1967 under the Group Areas Act of the Nationalist Government. The family were removed in 1975 and were the first former residents to return to Simon's Town in 1995.
Patty Davidson (nee Amlay) lived in the family home, and Patty's brother George was able to stay until 1975. Aunt Patty, who had married and left Simon’s Town, and her daughter went to the house one afternoon just in time to stop George from burning important kitabs and photographs which would have had no room in the small council flat to which he was being moved.
When the Land Restitution Programme began after the end of apartheid, Aunty Patty prepared and submitted a land restitution claim for all the properties her family had owned in Simon’s Town. To her surprise, while they were awaiting the outcome of the claim she received a call from the Department of Public Works. She was told that her childhood home was standing vacant because the navy, which had occupied it after her brother had been sent to Ocean View, had moved out. It was now occupied by homeless people and she could rent it from the department at a nominal fee until the claim was settled. So she and her husband began the process of moving in. With seven bedrooms, the house was too big for two people. So she struck upon the idea of establishing a museum.
Family, friends and people from the community of Simon’s Town as well as those who were displaced elsewhere but had memories of Simon’s Town, contributed photographs, newspaper clippings and oral stories. The photographs and newspaper articles were reproduced. Aunty Patty got training on running a museum from the Simon’s Town Museum. Then one weekend she spurred her collaborators to action and the museum was set up. Two rooms were dressed up and the Simon's Town Heritage Museum opened its doors on 26 July 1998, which was initiated by the Nooral Islam Historical Society.
Today the rooms are as they were when they were set up, complete with crockery and food that have been there since 1998, making it a fabulous museum for learning about the Cape Malay traditions from Weddings to cuisine. The theme was a Muslim wedding reminiscent of old Simon’s Town culture, replete with all the ornamentation down to a trousseau. Photographs of weddings from the 1800s to the present are posted on the walls. The second room contains a spectacular dining room scene during a wedding meal. The walls in this room are also covered with photographs: of life in Simon’s Town, of the Haj Pilgrimage to Mecca, of schools that existed before forced removal, of shopkeepers, and of lively people at all kinds of social events.
Many have added to the museum’s collection of photographs, newspaper clippings and items like kitabs and different kinds of drums used in religious celebrations. As the collection has grown so has the museum expanded into other rooms on the ground floor of Amlay House. Photographic displays include those on youth activities, on sports, and on Indian and black society in Simon’s Town before forced removal.
This is one of the most authentic, local and charater-filled museums in Cape Town (if not the world) - Patty is a South African treasure and the museum is a great place to stop when doing a Cape Point Day Tour as it is just 50 metres from the Main Road.
11h00 - 16h00 Tues - Friday
11h00 - 13h00 Saturdays
Sundays - by appointment only
Closed Mondays, Public Holidays & Eid Days