On the slopes of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s oldest and most fascinating residential areas. Its streets are characterized by brightly coloured nineteenth-century Dutch and Georgian terraces, which conceal a network of alleyways that are the arteries of its Muslim community. The Bo-Kaap harbours its own strong identity, made all the more unique by the destruction of District Six, with which it had much in common. A particular dialect of Afrikaans is spoken here, although it is steadily being eroded by English. Long-time residents have sold off family properties, and, with the closing of a landmark halal butchery, the area is set for substantial change. A number of trendy outsiders have moved in, and some guesthouses have started up, capitalizing on the outstanding central city position, poised between Long Street distractions and the buzzing Waterkant district.
Bo-Kaap residents are descended from dissidents and slaves imported by the Dutch in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They became known collectively as “Cape Malay”, although most originated from Africa, India, Madagascar and Sri Lanka, with fewer than one percent actually from Malaysia.