Back to Blogging With Pics From Bo-Kaap

I’ve just returned from a glorious week of traveling around the Western Cape. I was completely off the grid for much of the trip, with no cell phone coverage or email access. I must say, it was rather enjoyable. But I’m happy to be back in sunny Jozi, just in time for peak jacaranda season.

I haven’t even unpacked or sorted through the dozens of unread messages in my inbox. So I’m not ready to delve into the real meat of my journey just yet. Before I do that, here are some shots of Cape Town’s beautiful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, where I stayed for a couple of days before venturing out into the wilderness.

A colorful street scene in Bo-Kaap.

Formerly known as the Cape Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap is the historic home of descendants of Asian slaves brought by the Dutch from Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and other parts of Asia and Africa. The neighborhood has undergone serious gentrification since apartheid ended, but has maintained a visual and cultural character unlike any place I’ve ever been. It’s still a bit edgy, as well. I wouldn’t walk around alone after dark.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out the history of the brightly painted houses in Bo-Kaap. Here’s some interesting background on Bo-Kaap’s unique architecture, but my Google searches on color, which I found to be the most striking aspect of the houses, came up empty. Of course I could have asked someone, or visited the Bo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street. But that would be far too easy. Perhaps one of my readers can fill us in.

Bo-Kaap is the center of Cape Town’s Islamic community, which means visitors get to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to the Muslim call to prayer. I personally loved this.

Teenagers trickle out of one of Bo-Kaap’s mosques, ironically positioned on Church Street. The white mosque, and the kids’ white and block clothing, are an interesting contrast to the colorful houses.

We stayed at a charming B&B called La Rose, owned by a charming Frenchman named Yoann. La Rose is a perfect place to spend the weekend — lovely and quaint, well priced for Cape Town, free parking, close to everything, and breakfast to die for. (Get the poached eggs and try the bran muffins. They are divine. My friend Michelle almost shed tears one morning when she discovered there were no bran muffins that day. Be sure to request them the night before.)

Rates change by season and vary by room, but I paid R600 (about $80) per night.

La Rose.

View from one of La Rose’s many passageways.

My room boasted a spectacular shower head and a view of Table Mountain on a clear day. It was a bit noisy though, due to proximity to the street and the dining area. If you’re a light sleeper, ask Yoann for a room upstairs.

Lions Head, as seen from La Rose’s rooftop balcony (great spot for a drink on a warm evening). Lions Head looks like Mt. Vesuvius in this picture, but those are just clouds.

In addition to being quaint and fascinating and beautiful, Bo-Kaap is extremely convenient. It’s a five-minute walk to the restaurants and bars on Long Street and about a 20-minute walk to the Waterfront. La Rose is on Rose Street, which is right off of Strand Street, one of the main drags in and out of town.

Man on the street in Bo-Kaap.

When I visit a city more than once, I usually like to try out different places each time. Last time I was in Cape Town I stayed in Tamboerskloof, which is also quite nice. But after my stay in Bo-Kaap, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else in Cape Town. It’s too perfect.

You probably think this photo is posed. I swear it is not. Bo-Kaap is just that cute.

It’s great to be blogging again. I promise to catch up on everyone else’s blogs in due time.

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34 Comments

  • Reply namratainberlin October 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    i remember that cute girl! lovely pics, as always…

    • Reply 2summers October 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks. I forgot you were there when I took that.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough October 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Sounds like an incredible adventure, Heather. Can’t wait to hear more about it. Fabulous photos in this post. I especially like the one of the man leaning against the green wall.
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers October 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks Kathy. When I took that photo, I was actually intending to make it just the green wall with the guy in front of it. But then I accidentally included that glimpse of the street around the corner and realized it’s so much more interesting that way!

  • Reply Tilly Bud October 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Love the colours. What a cheerful place to live.

    • Reply 2summers October 30, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      Yes, probably the most visually stunning neighborhood ever.

  • Reply Jaco October 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I hope you had time to pop into Biesmillah for lunch. One of my fav spots in ct.

    • Reply 2summers October 30, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      No, I didn’t. But I just read about it and now I’m REALLY regretting not researching that portion of my trip better!

  • Reply casinoviembre October 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    amazing colors

  • Reply Slowvelder October 31, 2011 at 11:00 am

    lovely pictures and colours – look forward to reading all about it.

  • Reply amblerangel October 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

    What cool pics. Certainly looks like a nice place- amazing it’s dodgy at night. Lovevthe colors- reminds me of New Orleans.

    • Reply 2summers October 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      We actually had a taxi driver who nearly refused to take us there because he said it was too dangerous. (But I think maybe he was just trying to get more $$ out of us.) The photos show the pretty part but there is definitely still poverty there. Like most of South Africa, there is a big poverty gap in Bo-Kaap.

  • Reply Derek Smith October 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Beneath those pretty facades are hidden a long history of heartache and pain – residents being removed and resettled due to the colour of their skins. After 1994 a lot of land claims were settled but many is still unresolved. On top of that unscrupulous property speculators offered a pittance to land claim beneficiaries to obtain the houses for redevelopment. “Progress’ and picturesque does not always equate with the underlying injustices it perpetuated. Google land-claims District 6 and Bo-Kaap. I’m personally very confused by these issues – whether forced removal and subsequent land claims really benefited those that were disenfranchised – especially in areas, like the Bo-Kaap, where some will use all kinds incentives to own a piece of prime property.

    • Reply 2summers October 31, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      Interesting. I’m also very confused by all this and couldn’t find much information about the history of Bo-Kaap online. I’ve been reading quite a bit about resettlement more generally though. So, so, horrible and unthinkable. Thanks for the comment, Derek.

  • Reply Jaco October 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Another interesting historical marker. Apparently it is in homes like these that Afrikaans developed as a language. The first Afrikaans document was penned by a jailed Imam, in Afrikaans but with Arabic script (phonetically). Of course this is something that the Nationalists were not to happy, and our official history books give Afrikaans a much more gentrified birth!

    Biesmillah is such a unique little place. I am not even sure if the food is that great. But I just love it! Last time I was there I asked the waitress if the Bobotie (traditional Cape Malay dish) was good. She replied: “It better be, sir, I just made it myself!”

    • Reply 2summers October 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm

      Wow, that is so interesting!

  • Reply lisa@notesfromafrica November 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Really great photos of Bo-Kaap. I used to live in an apartment in central Cape Town. Loved walking around the city. Another of your posts that has brought back fond memories.

    • Reply 2summers November 3, 2011 at 9:40 pm

      That’s very nice to hear 🙂

  • Reply Sine November 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I’m also just catching up on the neverending email stream so a bit late reading your blog. Stunning pictures, makes me want to stay there the next time too!

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks Sine. Your article on Franchoek was fabulous, by the way 🙂

  • Reply Sine November 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I’m also just catching up on the neverending email stream so a bit late reading your blog. Stunning pictures, makes me want to stay there the next time too!

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks Sine. Your article on Franchoek was fabulous, by the way 🙂

  • Reply Lu November 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I don’t think I have ever been to Bo-Kaap – and I’ve been to Cape Town countless times visiting the in-laws… Maybe next time we are over (hopefully in the new year) I’ll make a visit.
    I do enjoy the irony of the mosque on Church St…. 😉

    • Reply 2summers November 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Yes, you must go! Great place for taking photos.

  • Reply Lu November 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I don’t think I have ever been to Bo-Kaap – and I’ve been to Cape Town countless times visiting the in-laws… Maybe next time we are over (hopefully in the new year) I’ll make a visit.
    I do enjoy the irony of the mosque on Church St…. 😉

    • Reply 2summers November 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Yes, you must go! Great place for taking photos.

  • Reply Shela July 20, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I take your pictures ya. Hope its ok. I want make a malay language entry about Bo-Kaap. Thanks 🙂

    • Reply 2summers July 20, 2012 at 6:45 am

      Hi Shela, you can use my pics but please provide a link back to 2summers.net. Thanks!

  • Reply Shela July 20, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I take your pictures ya. Hope its ok. I want make a malay language entry about Bo-Kaap. Thanks 🙂

    • Reply 2summers July 20, 2012 at 6:45 am

      Hi Shela, you can use my pics but please provide a link back to 2summers.net. Thanks!

  • Reply captainlinguistix - aka Philip December 2, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Time for another visit in the ‘Kaap” ….oh and you still owe me a coffee-meet-up !

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