The Bo-Kaap Museum
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
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 481 3939
How to get here
The Bo-Kaap is a short drive from Cape Town's city centre. If you don't have a car, take a cab.
Best time to visit
The Cape is at its best in the summer and spring.
Around the area
From the Bo-Kaap you are just a short distance from the major city attractions as well as other museums such as the Gold of Africa Museum, District Six Museum and the Castle of Good Hope.
Tours to do
A private guide will take you around Bo-Kaap visitng the museum, the cemetry and the mosque, at the same time filling you in on the area's culture and religion. The tour takes around two hours and costs about R120 per person. Contact the Bo-Kaap museum for guide references.
The best way to absorb the Bo-Kaap vibe is on foot.
What will it cost
Entrance fees: Adults R20; 16 to 18 R10; children free. Free entrance on selected commemorative days. The museum is open from 10am to 5pm from Mondays to Saturdays.
Length of stay
Schedule at least a couple of hours for the museum visit and the neighbourhood.
What to pack
A comfortable pair of walking shoes. Dress modestly if you intend going into one of the neighbourhood mosques.
Where to stay
Just about anywhere in Cape Town, although there are many accommodation options near the museum, in the city bowl as well as surrounding suburbs.
What to eat
Keep an eye out for Cape Malay dishes in the Bo-Kaap, like a spicy bobotie (baked mince with egg custard) or a sticky-sweet pastry know as a koeksister. Some restaurants with long-established reputations are Biesmiellah and Bo-Kaap Kombuis. Note that the festival of Ramadan may affect restaurant trading hours.
Check the listed Cape Town Tourism website for event details during your stay.