Colorful Bo-Kaap district, Cape Town, South Africa

The vibrant district of Bo-Kaap, also know as the Malay Quarter, is located on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city center of Cape Town, South Africa.

The suburb, with its brightly colored houses and cobbled streets is the historic home to the Cape Malay, part of Cape Town’s Islamic community. The community’s earliest members were enslaved Javanese and Sumatrans transported by the Dutch East India Company, who were speakers of Malay for the main part (hence the name). They were followed by slaves from various other South and Southeast Asian regions and Madagascar. Over time, the original Malay community expanded including these subsequent groups of newcomers, as well as native African groups.

This explains why the Cape Maly quarter is traditionally a multicultural Township, with a rich history and lively musical culture. Part of this Malay culture is also reflected in some of South Africa’s flagship dishes, such as Masala, bobotie, Malay curry, which, today, would be referred to as ‘fusion cuisine’.

Today, the people in the Cape Malay community do no longer speak the Malay and other languages of their ancestors. They speak mostly Afrikaans and English, or local dialects of the two, intertwined with Malay words and idiomatic expressions.

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
Bo-Kaap colorful houses


Nurul Islam Mosque, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
Nurul Islam Mosque



Bo Kaap, Cape Town

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa



Bo Kaap, Cape Town



Photo credits (top to bottom): Bo-kaap houses by Alexandra Roberts; Mosque by Jack Zalium; yellow and orange house by Bri74; Bo Kaap balustrade © JoRodrigues/Istockphoto; Bo-kaap blue, orange, yellow © istinia/IStockphoto; green house by Paul Watson; Bo Kaap street by P Donovan; Bo Kaap street by neiljs, Bo kaap colorful houses by Robertschrader; Bo Kaap iron gate by Julyinireland;