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!