From remote Australian island to South Africa: Five unique places with Malay population, history

Sultan Abdullah of Perak was exiled here in the 1800s. — Picture from Instagram/Visit Seychelles
Sultan Abdullah of Perak was exiled here in the 1800s. — Picture from Instagram/Visit Seychelles

PETALING JAYA, Feb 15 — Think the Malay population is unique to Malaysia and her neighbouring countries like Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia?

Then, it’s time to brush up on your geography.

The Cocos Islands, also known as Keeling Island, is an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean may only have a population of roughly 600 people but its majority is made up of Cocos Malays who speak a dialect of Malay and English.


The remote island was discovered by Captain William Keeling in 1609 but was not inhabited until 1826 when the wealthy English adventurer Alexander Hare brought a harem of 40 Malay women over to the islands, as documented in the memoir Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum.

Later on, one of the island’s first settlers, the Scottish merchant John Clunies-Ross recruited more Malays to the island to work on his copra plantation.


According to an article published by Hitz, the islanders receive Malaysian television channels such as TV3, ntv7, 8TV and TV9, on top of Australian channels.

Besides the Cocos Islands, here are far-flung places where Malays can be found:

South Africa



The Bo-Kaap neighborhood has roots dating back to the 1760s. It started off as an area where rental homes were leased out to the slaves (known as Cape Malays) brought in from Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Africa to work in the Cape. It was said that while all the homes were on lease, they had to all be painted white. However, as soon as the residents were allowed to start buying the homes, they immediately lifted the rule and painted the homes in the most vibrant of colours as a way of celebrating their freedom. These colours continue to decorate every corner of the neighborhood that has since housed generations of families of the first residents. . Bo-Kaap is one of the most well-known and most recognizable areas of Cape Town. Located right at the foot of Signal Hill and conveniently in the middle of the city, it still stands as one of the most culturally rich areas of Cape Town. On the 2nd of January of every year, a major carnival known as the Klopse (Coon Carnival) takes place across the Bo-Kaap. The carnival was originally introduced by the resident Muslim slaves in the area who celebrated their only day off from work every year. . #bokaap #bokaapcapetown #bokaaphouses #capemalay #klopse #cooncarnival #southafrica #westerncape #touristday #tourguide #photooftheday #slaves #history #capetownhistoricalbuildings #capetownhistory #colorfulhomes #travel #travelawesome #capetownetc #africanart #homes #historicalpix #historicalplace #slavery #travelphotography #travelbug #tourist #touristfinds #funfacts #gentrification

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The rainbow nation, just like Malaysia, is a melting pot of many cultures and ethnic groups.

One ethnic community that is closest to home are the Cape Malays. South Africa’s Cape Malays mostly come from the Dutch East Indies and Dutch Malacca, which the Dutch colonised from 1641 to 1824.

Afrikaans is mainly spoken but English is also widely used — Cape Malay people don’t speak the Malay languages which their ancestors used.



The traditional cuisine in South Africa was influenced by the cooking styles of the slaves that were brought to the Cape from Malaysia and Java, the dominant spices in the South African cuisine are chill, curry, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. . South African cuisine is thus a true melting pot of different cooking styles and combines the best of the food traditions worldwide. . You’ll get to enjoy a variety of traditional dishes and snacks during our tour including: . - Cape Malay Curry in Bo-Kaap - Fish and Chips in Hout Bay - Koe'sisters or Koesister, a traditional Cape Malay pastry often described as a spicy dumpling with a cake-like texture, finished off with a sprinkling of coconut -Biltong, the national snack of South Africa. It’s a form of beef jerky that’s found almost everywhere And many more yummy treats! . If you’d like to truly experience Cape Town, its breathtaking natural beauty, culture and tradition, fusion of foods and its rich Islamic history then this is definitely the tour for you. . Join us from 24- 29 September for our very first tour!!! . ***EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT – Book your spot in the tour by 15 July and received a 10% discount*** . Link in bio for more details or contact us via email: [email protected] . Photo credits: @salwaoh @lovecapetown . #traditionalcapefoods #foodies #capemalaycurry #fishnchips #koesisters # biltong #africa #southafrica #capetown #halaltours #halaltrip #halaltravel #muslimtravels #muslimswhotravel #travelpackage #travelingtheworld #instatravel #sufi #muslimtravelguide #wanderlust

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Their unique culture, like most in the world, is evident in their cuisine such as sosaties (a type of satay-style skewer dish), bredie (tomato-based mutton stew) and mild curries made with dried fruit such as apricots.


If you paid attention in History class, you may recall the story Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II, who was exiled to the tropical paradise of Seychelles, after he was accused of being complicit in the murder of the British Resident of Perak James Birch.

In an article by Kreol Magazine, Sultan Abdullah arrived in the island off East Africa in 1877 with an entourage of 37. He was in exile for 17 years.

In those years, he introduced Malaysian fruits such as the disease-resistant Malaysian banana to the island and played cricket at the Victoria Cricket Club with British military officers.

The sultan also impressed the Brits with his ability to speak English.

Sri Lanka

Known for its ancient Buddhist temples and beloved Ceylon tea, Sri Lanka is home to some 40,000 ethnic Malays that make up 0.2 per cent of the population.

Sri Lankan Malays arrived in the country when both Indonesia and Sri Lanka were ruled by the Dutch and later on under British rule, more arrived from the Malay Peninsula.


Known as Ja-minissu, the Malay community in Sri Lanka are mostly professionals such as lawyers, accountants and doctors.


Burmese Malays are found living in the south of Myanmar in the Tanintharyi Region and are said to have Kedahan Malay heritage.


They arrived in 1865 after a Malay of Arab descent Nayuda Ahmed who was collecting sea products around Mergui Archipelago settled down in Victoria Point Bay, modern-day Kawthaung.

In the Malay quarters of Kawthaung, familiar words such as kampong (remote), ulu (remote), telok (bay) and pulau (island) can be seen in the names of the settlements.

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