Bo-Kaap Travel Guide
  • Photo: ivepointsix / Shutterstock


Bo-Kaap is the historic home of the city's Muslim population, brought from the East as slaves in the late 17th and early 18th century. The Auwal Mosque, the oldest mosque in South Africa, built in 1798, is also here. You'll know you're in the Bo-Kaap (Afrikaans for "on top of the Cape") when you hear the call of the muezzin from one of the many mosques in the area. You might even have to sidestep lights, cameras, and film stars, since the district is an oft-used setting for movies and magazine shoots—the brightly colored houses make a stunning backdrop. Although foreigners and locals have started buying in the area—real estate in the City Bowl is at a premium, and without gardens these properties are cheaper—it remains overtly traditional, so much so that a bar that opened up on the corner of Wale and Rose streets to attract tourists and new residents had to close because of local pressure from the Muslim community. Today the area remains strongly Muslim, and it's fascinating to wander the narrow, cobbled lanes past mosques and the largest collection of pre-1840 architecture in South Africa. The Bo-Kaap is also known as the Malay quarter, even though its inhabitants originated from all over, including the Indonesian archipelago, India, Turkey, and Madagascar. There is a Saturday morning market on Wale Street, near the corner of Rose Street.


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