Focus on Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The "Bo Kaap" or "Cape Malay Quarter" belongs to the culturally and historically most interesting parts of Cape Town. Many of the inhabitants are decendants of the people from Indonesia (Batavia), Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia, who were captured in the 17th and 18th century and enslaved by the Dutch-East Indian Trading Company. Many were Mulims and others were converted to Islam by the Cape Muslim community.

The Cape Malays and their religious leaders played an important role in the development of the language and culture of the Cape colony. The Afrikaans language evolved as a language of its own through a simplification of Dutch in order for the slaves to be able to communicate with the Dutch and amongst each others, since they all came from different countries and cultures. Educated Muslims were the first to write texts in Afrikaans.

The Cape Malays have preserved their cultural identity and Muslemic creed. The old Malay Quarter with its steep and narrow streets, the plain artisan houses, Mosques and Minaretts reaches from the Buitengracht street up to the Signal Hill. The houses were restored and colourfully painted. The architectural style is a synthesis of Cape Dutch and Edwardian.

One of the oldest buildings in Wale Street 71 houses the "Bo-Kaap Museum". It is furnished as a Muslim house of the19th century and documents the history of the Cape Malays. The museum is open from mondays to saturdays from 9:30 to 4:30. Tel 021-4243846.

Each year on the 2nd of January the Bo Kaap celebrates a big street party, the "Coon Carnival" in the centre of town. It was originally introduced by the Muslim slaves who celebrated their only day off work in the whole year. Nowadays men, woman and children march from the Grand Parade to the Green Point stadium, singing and dancing. They are clad in colourful, shiny suits, white hats and carry a sun umbrella.


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