Adelaide Mosque

This prominent structure on Little Gilbert Street is the oldest Islamic mosque in  Australia. It is one of the few structures left that show the Muslim community's important contribution to South Australia's colonial era. 

Before motor vehicles appeared, transport through the Outback was very difficult. Camels were seen as the ideal pack animal because they could cope with the harsh environment. But they needed experienced drivers to manage them.

Around 2,000 cameleers came to Australia from Afghanistan, Baluchistan and other provinces in the northwest of India (now Pakistan) between the 1860s and the 1920s.

The first arrived on 9 June 1860 to take part in the Burke and Wills Expedition. Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills were sent to explore the Australian continent from south to north, and their inland expedition was the first to use camels for transport.

After that expedition, many cameleers were brought to Australia on short contracts. They supported South Australia's pastoral industry, including the Beltana Pastoral Company. They moved goods important to the Outback economy, including wool, minerals, water, supplies and equipment. Many of their routes became the present-day roads and thoroughfares of the Outback.

While most of the cameleers returned home after a two or three year contract, some stayed. They settled mainly in the southwest corner of the city. They opened businesses or worked in other jobs in Adelaide.

Although still a small community by the late 19th Century, they needed a permanent place of worship. This mosque was built between 1888 and 1889. Its construction was mainly paid for by the cameleers. It was finished by 1891.

The building is made of brick and stone. The distinctive towers or minarets were a later addition. Other permanent mosques were also built in Perth (in 1905) and Brisbane (in 1908). Mosques made of earth and iron were also built across the Outback for the cameleers.

In 2007, the public artwork Voyagers was unveiled in Whitmore Square, near the Adelaide Mosque. The crescent-shaped installation is a tribute to the cameleers, their families and descendants. You can find this artwork in the square across from St Luke's Church.

Images

"Camels disembarking", Herald Office, 1861

"Camels disembarking", Herald Office, 1861

This illustration shows two Afghan cameleers leading camels from a ship docked in harbour. | Source: State Library of Victoria, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/256836 View File Details Page

Mosque, Little Gilbert Street, 2014

Mosque, Little Gilbert Street, 2014

Creator: Photograph by Jessica Cronin View File Details Page

Mosque, Little Gilbert Street, 2014

Mosque, Little Gilbert Street, 2014

Creator: Photograph by Jessica Cronin View File Details Page

Street Address:

22-28 Little Gilbert Street, Adelaide [map]

Cite this Page:

“Adelaide Mosque,” Adelaide City Explorer, accessed May 29, 2017, http://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/51.

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