About the Bo-Kaap

Like the colorful houses that line its streets, the Bo-Kaap has a colourful history.About the Bo Kaap

Lying on the lower slopes of Signal Hill, in the shadow of Lion's Head, this historic, multi-cultural suburb in Cape Town, is a sight for sore eyes. Brightly painted houses, characteristic of Dutch and British architecture, line narrow cobble-stoned streets.  Many are national monuments.About the Bo Kaap , Cape Town

Interspersed amongst them are quaint, picturesque mosques, including South Africa's oldest mosque, the Auwal (meaning first) Mosque, which was built in 1798.

About the Bo Kaap , Cape Town

The name Bo-Kaap means “above the Cape."

First established in 1760 as a slave quarter, many of the current residents are descendants of these slaves who were brought to the Cape by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries from Malaysia, Indonesia, and other Asian (and African) countries. There were traders, religious scholars, skilled craftsmen, artisans and convicts too.About the Bo Kaap , Cape Town

They brought their religion, cuisine, culture and language with them. I realised this to a great extent when I visited Malaysia and heard words in use that I normally associate with the Cape Malay community.About the Bo Kaap , Cape Town

The houses are painted in vivid shades of vibrant colours and make the Bo-Kaap one of the main attractions in Cape Town. Tourists can always be found snapping their cameras in the area. Besides taking photos, one can also go on guided tours, visit the mosques and museums, enjoy a Cape Malay cooking experience or eat at one of the local restaurants.

You can learn more  about the area at the Bo Kaap Museum, which is the oldest house in the area still in its original form. It was built by Jan de Waal in 1768.

About the Bo Kaap , Cape TownThere are many theories about the origins of the bright colours but the most popular one seems to be as follows. Residents were previously restricted in the colours they were allowed to use during the apartheid era and when apartheid ended they painted their houses in bright, cheerful colours to express their joy and newly-found freedom. They often re-paint their houses in celebration of Eid, and usually after consulting with their neighbours.

20 comments on “About the Bo-Kaap”

  1. You want to spend a few days right in the middle if it? book one of the fabulous rooms at Rouge on Rose , boutique hotel, a fabulous place with great hosts at a very reasonable price.

  2. omg are these places for real?? gorgeous pictures... really enjoyed reading this :)I can only imagine what a wonderful community to put up that sign! how were the locals?

    1. Thank you Sahar. It does look like a make-believe world but the locals are authentic, friendly and welcoming.

  3. MashaAllah what a beautiful sight! The Masjid looks so fresh and pretty. Fascinating bit of background info for this beautiful place, thank you for sharing it with us. Definitely adding SA to my holiday list, I hope I get to visit one day inshaAllah.

  4. These houses are beautiful mashaAllah, really vibrant. Defo adding this to my holiday list inshaAllah

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