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Bo Kaap is the Cape Malay quarter in Cape Town. Here, at the foot of Signal Hill, is where the muslim community lives in very pretty houses that are all painted in vivid colors. Most of the inhabitants of Bo Kaap are descended from slaves who, in the 16th and 17th century, were brought to South Africa by the Dutch VOC Company. They came from other countries in Africa, from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, etc. These first muslim slaves have played a very important part in the language and the culture of Cape town and South Africa in general. For instance, everywhere in the Western Cape you will find “Cape Malay cuisine”, a successful mixture of meat or fish with veggies, fruits and - of course - spices.
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This is a traditional residential area of Cape Town's Muslim community, the suburb is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill. You will find cobbled streets and brightly colored houses from the 19th century, Muslim shrines and mosques. Very interesting place to visit. Stop into the Bo-Kaap museum also.
Bo Kaap - the Malay quarter?
Bo Kaap is unique and charming. A stroll along its cobbled streets lined with colourful houses is a pleasure in itself. Visitors can't resist taking loads of photos - all those shades of pink, orange, green and turquoise will look beautiful in the pictures. Little restaurants tempt you to come in with the scent of oriental spices.
But there is much more to Bo Kaap than picturesque surroundings. It's steeped in history. Many of its residents are descendants of the slaves from Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India who were brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th century. They were often, though incorrectly, referred to as Cape Malays and that's why Bo Kaap is often called the Malay Quarter. The fact is that most of its residents are Muslims and that's why you can find here a couple of mosques.
Let's hope that the quarter will retain its unique character for long. Unfortunately, it may change because of commercial reasons - there's a high demand for property here, so with time the local residents may be replaced by wealthy outsiders.
- Historical Travel
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Also known as the Malay Quarter, the Bo-Kaap is mainly inhabited by descendants of slaves who were brought from India and the East Indies in the early days. This area of narrow, cobblestone streets and mosques is notable for a distinctive brightly coloured houses. Many of the flat-roofed houses date from the 18th century.
Every year on the 2nd of January the Bo Kaap celebrates a big street party, the "Coon Carnival" in the centre of town. It was originally introduced by the Muslim slaves who celebrated their only day off work in the whole year. Nowadays men, woman and children march from the Grand Parade to the Green Point stadium, singing and dancing and playing Banjo-like instruments.. They wear colourful, shiny suits, white hats and carry a sun umbrella.
You will also find them busking at other times – this was at Hout Bay.
A very colourful quarter
In the Bo-Kaap district you find streets of brightly coloured 19th century Dutch and Georgian houses with terraces. The residents are descended from the slaves and dissidents imported by the Dutch. Best time of the day to be here is by the end of the afternoon, or early mornings to get the best picture results.
There's also the Bo-Kaap Museum, where we didn't go, but it seems to be quite interesting.
Bright little neighborhood
This is the old Cape Muslim quarter. Still to this day the residents are primarily Muslim and the brightly painted houses are somewhat a Muslim signature. When I was out on tours some of the guides mentioned that whenever you would drive by a neighborhood you could always tell where the Muslim quater was beacause it had the brightest colored houses. They were not allowed to worship publicly until the early 1800's and then began to build mosques in their community starting with the Al Auwal Mosque (1798). Something to note though, the dates on some of the mosques actually symbolize when the abolishment of slavery occured in Cape Town (1835), not when the mosque was built. The homes are an 18th century combination of Cape Dutch and Edwardian architecture style with flat roofs and flat facades, which doesn't look like much. Almost all have a small elevated front porch where family and friends can gather. It is still a tight knit community where people are actively invovled in each others lives and help support one another.
The people were brought here originally by the Dutch from various parts of African, Indonesia and other places in Asia. Many of them were skill laborers and others were political exiles. Islam came with them and started to establish itself in Cape Town in the 1700's.
The food of these new inhabitants was dubbed Cape Malay Cuisine is some of the best I have ever had. It is a mixture of Dutch, Indian and Asian spices and even fruits. It is very unique to South Africa. Rootis on the waterfront serves Cape Malay food as well as the Noon Gun Tearoom. There are a few restaurants in the Bo Kaap area that serve food with guests sitting on the floor and eating communally.
The 2nd of January is a great time to visit for the annual carnival that takes place there. It used to be called the "Coon Carnival" but I think the name has changed.
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
A Colourful Part of Cape Town
Well this is very interesting part of the City. You got all these colourful houses of the Cape Malay People and yet there is alot of history behind these people. These people were the descendants of Slaves that was brought to South Africa by the Dutch from Indonesia , Malaysia , Sri Lanka and India.
Each year on the 2nd of January the Bo Kaap celebrates a big street party, the "Coon Carnival" in the centre of town. It was originally introduced by the Muslim slaves who celebrated their only day off work in the whole year. Nowadays men, woman and children march from the Grand Parade to the Green Point stadium, singing and dancing. They are clad in colourful, shiny suits, white hats and carry a sun umbrella.
Its a Very Unique and Interesting place to visit.
Bo-Kaap Museum and Streets
A visit to the small Bo-Kaap museum is aimed at helping put the Bo-Kaap area into perspective. The museum is housed in a 1763 house (the oldest in the area) of a prosperous 19th century Cape Muslim family and, I feel, presents a rather idealised view of Islamic practice in Cape Town.
Don’t forget to have a look upstairs across the courtyard where there is a decent display of black and white photos depicting local life.
Overall, the Museum didn’t really do it for me and was one of the least interesting places I visited in Cape Town.
Museum Opening Times: 10am – 5pm Mon – Sat - Closed on Sundays, Workers' Day, Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha and January 2
Entrance Fee: R20
A Stroll in the Bo-Kaap Area
Strolling around the Bo-Kaap area itself - which is very worthy of some of your time - you will notice the vibrant colours of the mostly flat roof houses many of which date from the 18th /early 19th centuries. Recalling that this area was mainly occupied by slaves who where not allowed to dress in coloured clothes, etc. painting their houses in this defiant colourful manner was their release from an otherwise drab world. The area remains a Muslim neighbourhood inhabited by the descendants of Malay slaves from today's Indonesia who were brought here by the Dutch colonists. There are a number of Mosques in the area including South Africa’s oldest, the Auwal Mosque, established in 1794.
Bo-Kaap is especially colourful and comes to life for Tweede Nuwe Jaar ( Second New year - 2 January), when the annual Minstrel ( formally called Coon) Carnival takes place. During the 19th century, the New Year was celebrated by the Dutch and was considered to be the biggest annual feast. Slaves would get a day off on the 2nd of January and were allowed to celebrate in their own manner. Some years after slavery was officially abolished in the Cape in 1834 The Tweede Nuwe Jaar became a celebration that united the “creole culture” which the slaves had embraced in Cape Town.
While the area did not seem especially unsafe to me, I suggest you visit during the daytime only, be careful of your camera and other valuables and stick to the few streets around the museum – which are quite sufficient to give you a flavor of the area.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Visit the Bo-Kaap
The brightly painted buildings and a walkway are all we got to see as our guide stopped briefly in the Bo-Kaap for a look around. You can take a guided tour of this historic, Muslim area. I wish we had done this.
The Bo-Kaap is situated on the slopes of Signall Hill. Here you can view the colorful facades of 18th century slave homes on cobbled lanes, the Bo-Kaap Museum and the oldest Mosque in the southern hemisphere.
The Cape Malay Quarter
Bo Kaap or The Cape Malay Quarter is a colourful and culturally interesting place in Cape Town.
Many who lives here have decendent from Malaysia,Indonesia,Sri Lanka and India who were back then were encaptured slaves n being brought to Cape Town during the 17-18th century by the Dutch East Indian Trading company.The Cape Malay however dont speak Malay or Indonesian language.In fact these slaves back then were a vital part in developing the Afrikaans language which more or less a simplified Dutch,
Coming from Malaysia,going to this neighbourhood seems very interesting.Many of the Cape Malays do look like us! We were from the same roots anyway.
There's a Bo Kaap Museum displaying documents and history of the Cape Malays.
It is one of the oldest building,located at 71 Wale Street
Cape Malay Quarter
Walking along the Malay Quarter, which lies between Strand and Wale Streets on the one side and between Chiappini Street and Buitengracht Street on the other, is a cultural experience in itself.
The lanes are quaint and cobbled, and their Cape Dutch-styled terraced houses are painted in a variety of festive colours.
Many homes have been beautifully restored to their former glory, although some parts of the Quarter have become slums.
Those were then cleared and new homes in the same traditional Cape Dutch style, have been built in their stead.
Globally, the Cape Malays are unique to Cape Town. They were originally slaves and prisoners brought here from the Dutch East Indies.
Their name Malay comes form the fact they spoke Malay, a trading language at that time.
- Historical Travel
- Food and Dining
The Bo-kaap or Cape Malay Quarter.
This colorful quarter of the city is called Bo-Kaap, the residents are mostly descended by slaves brought here by the dutchs in the seventeenth century, and are known as Cape Malays. It´s a beautiful place to walk.
Love the Colours
Cliche but so true I love this up and coming area. Visit it soon b4 it becomes trendy beyond relief!
This is the traditional Muslim quarter that is a must visit during an afternoon stroll. Afterwards hit signal hill and the Noonday Gun TeaHouse.
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