Located on the slopes of Signal Hill, Bo-Kaap (meaning "Upper Cape") is the traditional Muslim quarter of Cape Town. The Cape Malay community started settling here after the emancipation of the 1830s. Today, the descendants of the slaves brought by the Dutch from India and East Indies are still living in the brightly colored houses which form the neighborhood. Most of the houses were built in the 18th century. While a stroll on the streets flanked by the vividly painted buildings is worth the time - especially if you like photography - knowing a bit about the history of the area makes the visit all the more interesting.
There are a number of mosques in the area including The Auwal Mosque, the oldest mosque in South Africa, established in 1798 by the Indonesian prince Tuan Guru who was imprisoned by the Dutch on Robben Island.
There is also a small museum located at 71 Wale Street, housed in the oldest building in the area, dating from 1763. It displays documents related to life in the area and it is furnished to depict the lifestyle of a 19 century Muslim family.
The area seemed pretty safe for walking during daytime.
One of the oldest residential areas of Cape Town, the Bo Kaap is a unique neighborhood with a strong cultural and social history. Home of a "Cape Malay" community, the neighborhood is a collection of brightly painted houses and mosques. Strolling through the streets (daytime and larger streets only) of the Bo Kaap provides a taste of a distinctly Cape Tonian community and lifestyle. If you find yourself in the area for dinner, try out Biesmielleh restaurant on Wale Street that serves delicious Cape Malay fare. A visit to the District Six Museum will offer some more insight into the history of the Cape Malay community of Cape Town.
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.
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.
Bo-Kaap local Yayga Arend takes you to a 1 to 2 hrs stroll to experience in his Bo-Kaap and its cuisine through the stories of past and present on the slopes of Signal Hill. View the the colorful facades of 18th century slave homes on cobbled lanes, the Bo-Kaap Museum and the oldest Mosque in the southern hemisphere, before sampling a traditional Cape Malay cuisine on the balcony of the homes of the residents in ‘The Malay’ Quarter.
Mr Arend is a very nice young man involved in many intresting cultural activities with his family.
Also you'll get to meet his family and eat some of the incredibly good food cooked by his mum!
We loved it!
(free with Cape Town Pass)
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.
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.
It was Tweede Nuewjaarsdag, Jan 2nd, 2008, no longer a public holiday.
We'd forgotten and tried to go Zerbans @ the Garden Centre for Breakfast.
The attempted traffic's eastern diversion resulted in the familiar Kaapse Klopse (Cape Town Minstrels)music.
So park the car and join the crowds on the old forshore to watch the colourful groups parading from the Castle via Adderley and wale Streets up to the Bo Kaap.
["Our songs come from our forefathers and their fathers before. They were oppressed when they came. They came here as slaves you know and they were always the oppressed and so the only way they could express themselves was putting it in words, singing, dancing, making music and being jolly. So that the next one would think we are happy. In the meantime we are expressing our feelings about certain things"]*
Bo-Kaap is a quarter in the city of Cape Town which is considered the home of the Cape Malay culture. The area has attracted muslim immigrants for the far east in the 19th century, but also other ethnic groups moved in this time to the Bo-Kaap. This led to a coulourful mixture of culture, which is not only visible in its inhabitants but also on the buildings. The Bo-Kaap is famous for their coulourful, small houses. A stroll through the streets of the Bo-Kaap is a good option to get an impression of this different part of Cape Town. For more information, there’s also a small museum.
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.
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.
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.