Bo-Kaap neighbourhood guide to an authentic experience

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Bo-Kaap sits between the slopes of Signal Hill and Cape Town’s CBD. It is home to the Cape-Muslim community and has become a tourist destination hotspot. Here’s our guide to the neighbourhood for visitors, lead by locals…


Feeding the poor and needy is an act that draws us closer to Allah. We earn His forgiveness, mercies and blessings through this act of charity.

“Anyone who looks after and works for a widow and a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah?s cause, or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all night. (Bukhari)

Bo-Kaap travel guide

Bo-Kaap. Photo: Shannon Correia

To give you a true sense of the place, we suggest you begin your tour in Wale Street. This will provide you with an uphill climb, seeing local stores that have been around for decades, like the Atlas Trading Company spice shop (where we suggest you purchase a packet of ‘Mother in Law’s’ curry powder, should your palette be daring enough). 

Admire the colourful houses you’ll see on the way up the hill. The houses were painted in vibrant hues in celebration of the freedom to the country and the area. You can pass through the pink arch and perhaps pay a visit the Bo-Kaap Museum. From here, you can wonder down some of the famous steep and narrow roads, leading you to see what the tourists come for – and to get a glimpse of everyday life here today.

What you’ll notice is a community: neighbours greeting one another, and the call to prayer being sounded daily by two of the several mosques in the area, as this is the home of Islam in South Africa. You’ll also notice gentrification: expensive coffee shops, new developments, family homes converted into holiday rentals and the demise of the neighbourhood charm. 

This is why it is important to remain respectful of and within the area, and to explore it the right way: by supporting the locals. Here are a couple of hosts who would be pleased to welcome you and tell you more.

View of Cape Town from Bo-Kaap. Photo: Shannon Correia

Bo-Kaap by cuisine with Fayruza Abrahams

Fayruza opens her family home up to visitors and shares traditional foods with those who visit. You can learn some of the recipes, making curry and folding samosas, or to simply enjoy a dinner along with traditional music, Fayruza has you covered. Taste a spoonful of her newly launched ‘Spice Cream’ by her brand, Taste Malay. These come in a range of flavours, from falooda to boeber. We also suggest trying one of her famous koesisters, as she sits down to exchange stories with you about everything from childhood, to life in Bo-Kaap.

Walk with Yusuf Voterson

Yusuf is a local tour guide who can take you to see prominent spots in the area. The tour begins at the Tana Baru Cemetary, which provides you with a sense of the area and the early Muslim pioneers. As you walk through the cobbled streets, Yusuf shares stories of his upbringing. Next up is a stop at the Auwal Masjid mosque, the oldest in the southern hemisphere. It is here where you will learn about Tuan Guru and a handwritten Qur’an dating back to the 18th century. 

Learn with Bilqees Baker

Bilqees welcomes tour groups to the area, where she has lived and immersed herself in for more than two decades. Having fallen in love with the area herself, she raised her family here and has become an activist in the battle to preserve Bo-Kaap heritage along with many of the other residents. Walk with Bilqees to visit public and private spaces, including kramats as you learn of the slave history and growing gentrification. 

Whether you join in on a tour with others, or book yourself a private tour, a tour of this special Cape enclave is one that is well worth exploring. Learn about the culture and heritage, through visits to iconic spots in the neighbourhood, first-hand accounts of the life, language and food that make the area what it is today. 

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