BO KAAP

Colour, culture & cobble Streets

BO KAAP

One of the oldest residential areas in Cape Town, Bo-Kaap is a mix of Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian architectural styles, from the nineteenth and seventeenth century. Probably the most photographed areas of the Mother City, the streets are filled with brightly painted houses and quaint cobbled streets.  Also known as the Malay Quarter, the Slamse Buurt and Scotcheskloof, Bo-Kaap, translated from Afrikaans, means ‘Above the Cape’. 

 

Located on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre, the historical centre of the Cape Malay Culture, this traditionally multicultural neighbourhood contains the largest concentration of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa and is the oldest surviving residential neighbourhood in Cape Town.  The area is filled with history, making this a treasure for holidaymakers to explore.

 

Home to the Bo-Kaap Museum, showcasing local Islamic culture and heritage, it is located in the oldest house in the area and is still in its original form, was built by Jan de Waal in 1763 as a ‘huurhuisje’ (rental house), which were leased to his slaves. Originally painted white, all houses were repainted as an expression of freedom by the new homeowners, many years later.  And even today, the residents of Bo-Kaap are not allowed to paint their houses the same colour as their neighbours. And if they want to change the colour, they have to invite the neighbours and discuss what colour to paint it.  So no two houses on any street are painted the same colour.  Even the steep cobblestone streets are filled with history, as these were laid with rocks imported from Holland and laid-out back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

 

In May 2019, 19 sites were declared National Heritage Sites by the South African Heritage Resources Agency with the objective of conserving the Bo Kaap heritage.

 

Home to the first mosque built in South Africa, the Auwal Masjid was built by Tuan Guru, a much-beloved man who wrote the entire Quran from memory, whilst imprisoned at Robben Island, which is still on display at the mosque.

 

 

Nearby attractions

  • Jason Sonny’s Art in Bo-Kaap
  • Cape Malay restaurants, serving traditional dishes
  • District Six Museum
  • South African Astronomical Observatory
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