Nestled in the heights of Signal Hill, “Bo-Kaap” (“above the Cape” in Afrikaans) is a small neighborhood gem, home to a predominantly Muslim population from Malaysia, India, and Indonesia. If I have any advice to give you, please take the time to leisurely visit this picturesque and colorful neighborhood, to linger over its history, its Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian architecture, its traditions and its spicy cuisine. Even if you lack time, Bo-Kaap deserves much more than just a quick visit by car or by tourist bus.
The inhabitants of Bo-Kaap arrived in the neighborhood through the East India Company in the 17th century to serve as slaves. The harsh living conditions led to such numerous deaths that it was necessary to constantly bring new slaves in! After the Abolition of Slavery and the return of Democracy, the population was quite numerous and made the choice to stay in the neighborhood. As Free men and women, they decided to paint their houses in bright colors to “protest” against the fact they were dressed in white during the time of slavery.
What to visit in Bo-Kaap? After strolling through the brightly painted houses and the steep cobbled streets, do not hesitate to enter one or two mosques. You will recognize them thanks to their minaret. The tiny Bo-Kaap museum (located in the building where a large number of slaves were locked up) was not worth the visit but I read it is slowly being transformed into a museum that “tells the story of the local community within a national socio-political and cultural context”. Let’s see how it goes… (My very own opinion is that if you have one museum to visit in Capetown, you should choose the fascinating district six museum). For the amateur cooks, I strongly recommend a shopping session at the Atlas Trading Company, a family-owned spice emporium. Heaven on earth! If you want to taste authentic Cape Malay cuisine, Bo-Kaap Kombuis, owned by Husband and wife Yusuf and Nazli Larney has been strongly recommended to us. Otherwise, within walking distance, Bree Street buzzes with bars and restaurants; La Parada is an excellent tapas bar I have tested. Since you’ll be around, do not miss Honest Chocolate Café, a small artisanal chocolate company: their chocolate bars are made from raw organic cocoa and the wrapper illustrations are designed by famous local artists. They are the perfect gifts for your friends back home.