Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap Museum, set in the colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap just outside the city centre, is the place to find out about the resident Islamic community, its history and culture. After your visit, take a walk along the cobbled streets and discover more.

Did you know?

Slaves of the Muslim faith were brought to South Africa from India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

You'll find the Bo-Kaap Museum which showcases South Africa's Islamic heritage in the cheerful Bo-Kaap neighbourhood of multi-coloured houses established centuries back by freed slaves, many of whom hailed from South East Asia and practiced the Muslim faith. 

These former slaves became known as the Cape Malay, and it's believed that they were instrumental in the formation of the Afrikaans language, a version of Dutch simplified for easier communication between the Dutch settlers and workers.

The Bo-Kaap Museum in Wale Street, falls under the Iziko group of Cape museums. It's in the process of transformation into a social history museum that will tell the story of the local population within a cultural and socio-political context. 

The museum occupies a 1768 original house, and is furnished as a 19th century home of a Muslim family. 

As you relive the history of the Bo-Kaap community you'll learn about its customs and beliefs, and how it was affected by the political ideology of apartheid and its discriminatory legislation. 

Despite the efforts of the government of the time to move all communities of colour outside the boundaries of Cape Town, this vibrant working class population stubbornly continued to exist on the doorstep of the city on the slopes of Signal Hill.

After your visit to this urban museum in Cape Town, take a walk around the area and if you’re there at the right time of day, listen out for the muezzin's calls to prayer.  

Not far from the museum you'll find the oldest mosque in South Africa, the Auwal Mosque built at the turn of the 18th century. Nearby is the oldest Muslim cemetery in the country, the Tana Baru.

The Bo-Kaap is also the heart of traditional Cape Malay cuisine so treat yourself to a spicy curry and some syrupy munchies. And spend a few moments chatting to the people of Bo-Kaap for some great insights into their daily lives.

Travel tips & Planning info

Related articles