Prior to embarking the RMS St Helena for my trip to St Helena and Ascension Island I spent some days in Cape Town. Cape Town, or the Mother City, has got to have one of the world’s most beautiful settings, sitting as it does in the shadow of Table Mountain hemmed in by it and a rugged coastline of stunningly beautiful beaches.
Notwithstanding how much I loved this South African gem I have, to date, written very little about my time there. Please see this and one other linked review as work in progress!
A visit to the small Bo-Kaap museum (entrance pictured above) is aimed at helping put the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town into perspective. The museum is housed in a 1763 house (the oldest in the area) of a prosperous 19th century Cape Muslim family and while I feel it presents a rather idealised view of Islamic life in Cape Town it is certainly worthy a short visit.
Don’t forget to have a look upstairs across the courtyard where there is a decent display of black and white photos depicting local life.
Museum Opening Times: 10am – 5pm Mon – Sat – Closed on Sundays, Workers’ Day, Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha and January 2
Entrance Fee: R20
A Stroll in the Bo-Kaap Area
Strolling around the Bo-Kaap area itself – which is very worthy of some of your time – you will notice the vibrant colours of the mostly flat roofed houses many of which date from the 18th /early 19th centuries. Recalling that this area was mainly occupied by slaves who where not allowed to dress in coloured clothes, etc. painting their houses in this defiant colourful manner was their release from an otherwise drab world. The area remains a Muslim neighbourhood inhabited by the descendants of Malay slaves from today’s Indonesia who were brought here by the Dutch colonists. There are a number of Mosques in the area including South Africa’s oldest, the Auwal Mosque, established in 1794.
Bo-Kaap is especially colourful and comes to life for Tweede Nuwe Jaar ( Second New Year – 2 January), when the annual Minstrel ( formally called Coon) Carnival takes place. During the 19th century, the New Year was celebrated by the Dutch and was considered to be the biggest annual feast. Slaves would get a day off on the 2nd of January and were allowed to celebrate in their own way on that day. Some years after slavery was officially abolished in the Cape in 1834 the Tweede Nuwe Jaar became a celebration that united the “creole culture” which the slaves had embraced in Cape Town.
While the area did not seem especially unsafe to me, I suggest you visit during the daytime only, be careful of your camera and other valuables and stick to the few streets around the museum – which are quite sufficient to give you a flavor of the area.
Address: 71 Wale Street (Museum)
Directions: Bo-Kaap area around the museum – sorta stands out!
For my next Cape Town review click HERE.