Culture

Why Bo Kaap Is Worth Flying To South Africa For

It's more than just a photo op.

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Even if you don’t know Bo Kaap by name, odds are you’ve seen it before.

Its cobbled streets are lined with houses painted vibrant pinks, greens, reds and oranges, a backdrop that’s propelled the technicolour neighbourhood to Instagram fame.

But Bo Kaap is more than just a (very, very good) photo op. It’s also one of the most fascinating parts of Cape Town, where the Islamic call to prayer rings through the streets as locals trade stories in a unique dialect of Afrikaans and share meals that fuse African and Malaysian flavours.

Intrigued? Here’s why Bo Kaap is worth hopping on a plane for.

The History

The origins of Bo Kaap date back to the 18th century, when the neighbourhood was home to slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in Africa.

Today’s residents are descendants of those slaves and dissidents — in fact, many of the homes here have been owned by the same families for generations — which means Bo Kaap is still a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, rooted in “Cape Malay” heritage. Simply put, it’s one of the most culturally distinct parts of South Africa.

 

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You can — and should — explore that rich history at The Bo Kaap Museum, which has been set up to resemble a local family home from the 1800s and offers a fascinating look into the area’s culture. Sign up for one of the neighbourhood walking tours (some are free!) to be escorted around the area’s key sites, including Auwal Mosque, the oldest of its kind in the country.

The Food

You’ll smell it before you see it — the aroma of Cape Malay cuisine is in the air in Bo Kaap.

The food here is some of the best in the country and you’d be remiss to come here without sampling it. Follow your nose to Bo Kaap Kombius, the restaurant serving roti and curry with a view that overlooks Table Mountain, or fill up on everything from braai to butter chicken at the perennially popular Biesmiellah.

Or to really do as the locals do hit the Rose Corner Cafe, a beloved neighbourhood institution selling samosas, parathas, “koesisters” (the Cape Malay take on a donut) and pink sausages known as “warm worsies”. You can also pick up some spices for keeps at the family-owned Atlas Trading Company, which has been slinging turmeric and cinnamon in bulk since 1946.

 

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The Photos

Brushed up on your Bo Kaap history and filled up on Cape Malay cuisine? There’s one thing left to do.

The most picturesque streets in the neighbourhood are Chiappini, Wale and Rose and it’s there most visitors go for their photoshoot. If it’s good enough for Miley…

 

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sister sister 🐯

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