Britain’s first-ever Muslim Heritage Trails, located right here in Woking, have been shortlisted for the Best UK and Ireland Tourism Project, at this year's British Guild of Travel Writer’s International Tourism Awards.
The two trails, created by the Everyday Muslim Archive and Heritage Initiative, reveal a fascinating British Muslim cultural heritage.
Simon Willmore, Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers, commented on the value of these sites. “The Muslim Heritage Trails are a hugely worthwhile project because they help to preserve and celebrate an incredibly significant part of Britain's cultural history”.
The other finalists in the category are the new V&A Museum in Dundee and the Walthamstow Wetlands in east London.
“The competition is really stiff, and when you look at the budgets of the other projects, which run into the millions, we’re ecstatic that our project has made it this far,” said the developer of the trails, Tharik Hussain.
The trails, launched in July, are one of three finalists voted for by members of the guild, which include some of the world’s leading travel writers.
The two trails, called Trail #1: The Woking Trail and Trail #2: The Muslim Cemetery Walk, focus on three sites of Muslim heritage in Surrey.
The country’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan Mosque, was built in Woking in 1889. This was followed by the Woking Muslim Military Cemetery, also known as the Peace Gardens, which opened in 1915. The trail also includes Britain’s first Muslim Cemetery, originally called the Muhammadan Cemetery, which was founded in 1884 in a plot in the Victorian Brookwood Cemetery.
Trail #1 links all three sites together for the first time and introduces their interconnected history, revealing how the area became a flourishing site for an early indigenous British Muslim community - long before the influx of immigration of Muslim countries in the 1970s and 1980s. Visitors to the trails learn that how the mosque and its pioneers gave rise to a flourishing community so influential it became known as the ‘Mecca of Europe’ during the early part of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, trail #2, takes visitors on a walk around the historic Muslim cemetery, to the final resting places of some of the great Muslim luminaries. This includes several influential early British converts, including the barons, Lord Headley and Sir Archibald Hamilton, the latter a member of the royal family, as well as the founder of the country’s first mosque, Abdullah Quilliam and the most famous English translator of the Qur’an, Marmaduke Pickthall.
This nomination is a testament to the thriving diversity and community within Woking and the people who foster it. The winner will be announced on Sunday 3 November at the Guild’s annual Gala event at London’s Savoy Hotel.