Exploring the Colorful Bo Kaap Neighborhood in Cape Town

Walking into the colorful Bo Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town is like going from black and white to amazing Technicolor. The sun peeked through the clouds compounding the dazzling effects of the bright colors gracing the homes and businesses; I felt like Dorothy waking up in Oz.

The Bo Kaap, in the shadow of Signal Hill, is the heart of the Cape Malay population in Cape Town. Smells of delicious foods fill the air and the call to prayer rings out five times a day in a delightful melody of penance. The earliest members of the ethnic group known today as Cape Malay arrived as slaves and were brought to Cape Town from Southeast Asia by the Dutch. Future generations including (now) Indonesian Muslim leaders were sent into exile and forced to resettle in South Africa. Cape Malays also have a South Asian or Indian heritage, and it was their influence that brought Islam to South Africa. Over time their cultural, and culinary adaptations became ingrained into daily life in South Africa, especially the food and especially in Cape Town.

The bright colors that are now emblematic of the neighborhood is a more recent phenomenon, starting in the 90s after the end of apartheid. Painting the homes in bright, cheerful colors was a way to express happiness and joy and has developed into a tradition throughout the neighborhood. Owners may paint their homes whenever they want to, just as long as there’s variety on the street.

Walking through the neighborhood is a must for any visitor, especially when you combine it with a delicious Cape Malay cooking experience.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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10 Responses

  1. Dean

    Wow that certainly is a colourful neighbourhood! I can’t imagine being able to have a dull day if I lived there.

  2. Andi

    Towns like these in Italy, in Portugal, in South America always make me feel happy. You can’t help but smile when you see them.

  3. Amanda

    Wow! The colors are amazing!!

  4. MARIE

    It looks like a rainbow ! so nice…

  5. Lesley Peterson

    Marvelous pictures, Matt. I thought the houses on the island of Burano, Italy, were colourful but these are even more beautiful in their harmony. Like a bouquet of flowers. I feel a Pinterest attack coming on:P

  6. Jaillan

    Lovely pics which bring back great memories of exploring the area earlier this year – I just wish I’d thought to take a cooking class too 🙂

  7. Johan Horak @capeholidays

    Really lovely photos. I like this kind of image rich posts. Words are nice and can compliment photos. Not the other way around. Great one Matt.

  8. Leno

    Actually the painting of the houses in this neighbourhood started when a doctor coloured his practice some bright colour to make it stand out. It looked so nice so the neighbours did the same thing!

    • Matt Long

      I”m sure there are many stories, our guide told us the one I shared but regardless they’re beautiful


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