Cape Town might be the world’s most visually striking city, between its dramatic coastal setting perched precariously against the looming Table Mountain and the town’s riotous collision of Europe and Africa, and from textiles to colonial Dutch architecture. Perhaps no Cape Town neighborhood better represents the sensory feast that is Cape Town than the Bo-Kaap, a wildly colorful enclave of brightly painted houses long home to the city’s unique population of Cape Malay residents.
Bo-Kaap got its start in the late 16th century, as Cape Town rose to prominence as a key stopover for merchant ships traveling between Europe and Asia. The largely Dutch traders who controlled Cape Town introduced Indonesian slaves (now known as Cape Malays) to the city, who then brought along their Islamic culture and cuisine. Bo-Kaap became home to the city’s Cape Malay community, weaving its way through a patchwork of brightly painted houses, historic mosques, spice shops and cobblestone streets.
Though the Bo-Kaap is quickly gentrifying, the neighborhood remains a fascinating sensory feast for an afternoon stroll. Turquoise and bright green houses compete for your eye’s attention with nearby Table Mountain, as a thick blanket of clouds gently rolls across its summit. Nearby a group of worshippers kneels outside one of Bo-Kaap’s mosques, their chanting wafting its way to your ears. On the next corner, a market stocks halal meats and fresh-made Koeksisters, a sweet South African donut.
Begin your own exploration of the Bo-Kaap signs and sights of the neighborhood in the Gadling gallery below!
An international report from the World Travel Market that opened this week in London has coined the term “Halal Tourism” as something that the Middle East needs to begin exploiting, especially with the increase of inter-regional tourists.
A halal airline, halal restaurants…ummm…but wait a minute — in my knowledge, Muslim countries are “halal”, i.e. the entire Middle East is halal — so, I don’t see how marketing services under “Halal Tourism” will do much when it has always been a given i.e. default.
Airlines like Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways serve only halal food and have praying areas or at least a direction that marks Mecca — at the airports and in their aircrafts. In fact, they have incorporated Islamic necessities so well that it makes all passengers feel comfortable — Muslim or not.
On a similar note, Dubai has what I like to call some “considerate” rules that allow it to keep its international spirit but at the same time serves well to those more religious Muslims. For e.g. it has “pink-taxis” with women drivers, undoubtedly only for women and families, women-only days at the beach, and they even sell halal cosmetics!
Now, will things like this encourage women from around the region to travel alone to Dubai or say Algeria? from Saudi Arabia, for example? I highly doubt it.
In fact, shouldn’t they be doing the opposite to attract a market from outside the Middle East? For instance, not long ago Dubai introduced “Pork-Sections For Non-Muslims Only” in supermarkets to cater to the high percentage of international population that lives in the city. Also, drinking alcohol is legal in Dubai — except in Ramadan when they serve alcohol but only to non-Muslims (they check ID!).
If Halal Tourism needs to be promoted, it should be outside the Middle East, beginning with countries that don’t make it difficult for people from the region to get visas to their country, don’t you think?