The Bo-Kaap, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cape Town’s city centre, is full of charm and colourful homes (pink, orange, lime green, and turquoise), many of which are national monuments and date back to the 1750s. The neighbourhood is characterized by cobblestone streets that rise up to meet the lower slopes of Signal Hill, on which it is located. The Bo-Kaap is a bustling neighbourhood with a diverse population descended from slaves brought to the country by the Dutch in the 1700s. They originated in Malaysia, the Indonesian Archipelago, India, Sri Lanka, and Africa. Not only were these individuals mistakenly referred to as “Cape Malays,” but the Bo-Kaap also came to be known as the Malay Quarter and still is.
More than 90% of the population is Muslim, reflecting the fact that many of the early slaves were Muslim scholars, religious leaders, as well as craftsmen and artisans. This is reminiscent of the Bo-Kaap’s exclusivity declaration under apartheid, which led to the expulsion of residents of other faiths and racial groups.
Homes in this area tend to have Dutch or British influences. The older period homes, the majority of which are semi-detached, are located along lower Bo-Kaap, Dorp Street and were likely built by emancipated slaves who chose to live here because it was so convenient for them to commute to the city for work. Guided tours through the suburb are especially fascinating and include stops at nearby mosques and kramats (shrines).
Many local traditional restaurants serve Cape Malay cuisine, which is known for combining fruit, spices, vegetables, and meat. The CBD is not far from the Bo-Kaap museum, which currently depicts the lifestyle of a typical Muslim family in the 19th century.