Thirty-five years ago on the evening before the Muslim holiday Eid-Al Fitr, Shukoor Mowzer and two friends started feeding the needy from two pots of food. The pots were borrowed from Mowzer’s mother and the food sourced from local shopkeepers and butchers. That was the start of the Nakhlistan initiative. Today, Nakhlistan has 300 volunteers cooking with 169 pots at Callies rugby grounds in Athlone, and feeding over 85,000 people.
Mowzer says that he got the idea in Mecca on pilgrimage. It was Eid, and all he had to eat was a dry roll and a Pepsi. He said to himself. “Never ever will I again have an Eid like this.”
On returning to Cape Town, he started to make food and distribute it. Mowzer is now 60 and still involved, only leaving the cooking site at 6am.
Fatima Allie, Nakhlistan ’s public relations officer, said that it started off as an Eid-Al Fitr feeding scheme, but now it is operational throughout the year.
Nakhlistan is a Persian word meaning oasis, chosen because “an oasis provides sustenance in the desert”.