Bo Kaap, Cape Town


Outside our house, tucked beneath Table Mtn.

Outside our house, tucked beneath Table Mtn.

 The Bo Kaap

For the majority of our stay in Cape Town, we rented a little house in a neighborhood called the Bo Kaap, which translates as “Upper Cape Town.”  A cultural enclave for the Muslim inhabitants of the Cape, this area was originally known as the Malay Quarter. Bo Kaap’s earliest residents were emancipated slaves, imported from the East Indies and freed in 1838 when slavery at the Cape formally ended. Today, the area is known for its brightly colored homes, cobblestone streets, and Muslim culture.  Tour buses and vans drive through daily so that visitors can snap photos of the unusual architecture and numerous mosques within the small district.

During Apartheid, the Bo Kaap was already so completely ethnically partitioned, the government opted not to remove its residents to the outlying districts.  It essentially became its own Township.  The residents’ Islamic culture was able to proliferate right in the center of Cape Town.  Now, the Bo Kaap is becoming a popular neighborhood for all races, experiencing gentrification due to the economic growth in Cape Town and the dismantling of Apartheid’s racial segregation systems.

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ZOE: You might notice in the photographs of the Bo Kaap that all the roofs are flat and none of the windows have shutters.  This is because a long time ago when the roofs were thatched and there were wooden shutters on the windows, a terrible fire spread rapidly and just about destroyed the entire neighborhood.  The Bo Kaap residents made a rule after that happened that all houses must have flat roofs and no shutters.  It makes the architecture look really pretty and unusual.

View of Bo Kaap from atop Table Mtn.

View of Bo Kaap from atop Table Mtn.

Street view

Street view

Flat roofs, no shutters

Flat roofs, no shutters

SCHUYLER: We actually learned a lot about the Muslim culture while living in the Bo Kaap.  The residents prayed often, like maybe four times a day and once in the night as well.  Prayers were called out from a loudspeaker at the main mosque so we could hear the chanting even inside our house.  Dad took us for a walk one evening and we went into a mosque and spoke to a man inside about his religion.  He said that some Muslims having become less devout these days, many of them choosing not to pray in the night for example.  While a lot of people dressed in traditional muslim garb,  we didn’t see anyone in full burkas like we had in Qatar.  

One of many mosques throughout the neighborhood

One of many mosques throughout the neighborhood

THAYER: One afternoon Mom took us outside with watercolor paints and sketch books, and we got to draw the houses in the Bo Kaap and then paint them in the bright colors.  We stayed outside for like 2 hours because we met up with some children and played with them too. I raced a little boy who was my age up and down stairs and beat him a lot.  I also played hopscotch with some big girls who were so nice!  We kept our drawings because they turned out so pretty. 

Thayer plays along the cobblestone streets

Thayer plays along the cobblestone streets

During our stay, we befriended a South African couple and their son who had recently moved into the neighborhood.  Tarik, age 11, became a buddy for the girls and spent time exploring the Bo Kaap with us.  He also invited our family to attend his school recital one evening, and we enjoyed listening to him sing with the school choir. 

Tarik and our gang on a walk

Tarik and our gang on a walk

Home Life in Cape Town:

The girls thought it might be fun to include some photos and text about our life at home in Cape Town, to give you a sense of our day-to-day experience on the road.  They think that Mom is putting too much “historical blah blah” in these Cape Town posts.  

SCHUYLER:  We celebrated Halloween while we were in Cape Town! It was weird to be so far from home during one of our favorite holidays.  We had actually just arrived in Cape Town on the 30th and so we were staying in a small hotel for a couple of nights before moving into the Bo Kaap.  We couldn’t go trick-or-treating, in part because we didn’t know the neighborhood around our hotel, but mostly because Halloween isn’t really celebrated in S. Africa! So we had to make up a new version of Halloween.  We went to the mall and found some makeshift costumes.  Thayer was a ballerina, Zoe was a “hippie” and I was a cheetah. Mom found all kinds of treats for us, some of which were familiar (like kitkats and skittles) and others were more unique (like cotton candy and coco puffs).  Then she made up a big scavenger hunt all around the hotel and we had to go trick-or-treating with the clues!  Each clue led to some treats, and they were hidden in all kinds of random places.  We found sour worms under a wash doth in our sink, and cotton candy stuffed in champagne glasses in the hotel lounge.  It turned into a really fun night!  We ended by watching Halloween movies and eating our candy.  Yum! 

Cheetah, Ballerine, and Hippie

Cheetah, Ballerine, and Hippie

Reading a clue for our scavenger hunt

Reading a clue for our scavenger hunt

Dividing the candy, very carefully!

Dividing the candy, very carefully!

We’re not always tourists…

When you are on the road for as long as we are, you can’t be a tourist every day.  There were many days in Cape Town when we just had to do regular household things.  Nuts and bolts, like food shopping, emailing, homeschooling, cooking, errands, and indoor activities filled a lot of our time.  Here are some photos to prove it! 

Chores (yes, we still have those even on the road)

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Thayer and Zoe make a game out of the laundry chores, pretending to be exhausted laundry ladies

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But hanging the clothes out to dry on our deck becomes a game of catch!

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Thayer makes doing dishes look stylish (?) in 3D glasses from rainy day movie excursion

Really, he's not this happy about the dishes.

Really, he’s not this happy about the dishes.

Hard to sweep with a broken broom!

Hard to sweep with a broken broom!

Keeping in touch is important… we all take turns sending emails and enjoying Skype sessions with family and friends back home!

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Schuyler and Zoe enjoy the blog comments!

Jeff skypes with his parents on our roof deck

Jeff skypes with his parents on our roof deck

Indoor Fun… On rainy days or lazy days, we stick around the house and find things to do to help the time pass.

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Watercolors have been a big hit in Cape Town

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Does homeschooling count as “fun?” Getting down to business is sometimes a challenge!

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Making a “bedtime checklist” to remedy some parental impatience with the current routine, or lack thereof.

Thayer pretends to surf on Doc Rob's old boogie board

Thayer pretends to surf on Doc Rob’s old boogie board

In the kitchen… The girls have been doing a lot of cooking, especially at breakfast time (Zoe is the pancake master, Schuyler cooks the eggs), and Thayer has been doing a lot of baking so Schuyler can have some allergy-friendly treats. 

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Thayer ready with her ingredients all laid out

A typical pancake by Zoe

A typical pancake by Zoe

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Schuyler made breakfast in bed one morning when we all had the sniffles

Enjoying a family dinner!

Enjoying a family dinner!

Out and about…. we often leave the house to do non-tourist activities too.  

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Jeff gets a long-overdue shave from a local barber

Girls feed the squirrels living in Doc Rob and Sandy's yard, in a squirrel house designed and built by Doc Rob himself!

Girls feed the squirrels living at Rob and Sandy’s, in a squirrel house designed and built by Doc Rob himself!

We found a "make-your-own" cookie station in a natural foods court downtown.

We found a “make-your-own” cookie station in a natural foods court downtown.

Of course we find playgrounds and trampolines!

Of course we find playgrounds and trampolines!

Exploring the Seapoint tide pools at the edge of the city

Exploring the Seapoint tide pools at the edge of the city

Blair gets a ride on Doc Rob's motorcycle - thrilling!

Blair gets a ride on Doc Rob’s motorcycle – thrilling!

Our two weeks in Cape Town fly by, and it is time to board our flight to Johannesburg and embark on our week-long safari in the Mala Mala Game Reserve.  Be ready to see some awesome wildlife in the coming post!

Boarding our flight to Johannesberg

Boarding our flight to Johannesburg (man to left remains complete stranger despite participation in photo )

Much love to everyone, see you soon! xo

Categories: AFRICA, Bo Kaap, Cape Town

10 comments

  1. Now that I have proof that you guys actually are reading these comments, I’ll write one. 🙂 Tell your mom that the historical blah blah blah WAS getting a bit boring… the stories about the Halloween scavenger hunt, Dad’s trip to the barber shop and Mom’s joy ride on Doc Rob’s motorcycle were much more entertaining! miss you all. xoxo auntie pick

  2. So exciting you guys. I feel so blessed to be able to follow you all through your journey. I can’t wait to see you all in person.
    Love you all.
    JOJO

  3. Hope you guys had a nice Thanksgiving. My future marine biologists children would like you to know that they are ‘Sea Stars’, not Starfish. Love the pictures and the write-ups. -Tony C.

  4. Thanks for all the news and beautiful photos! We love the previews of Cape Town and the stories of all your amazing adventures…glad you’re having a great time and LEARNING so much!! Good work there with the dishes, Hef. xox

  5. We missed you at Thanksgiving but put out the beautiful ceramic treasures you made us. My dear little Thayer – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! I hope it was a birthday you will never forget. I love the pictures and blogs – KEEP them coming. We love and miss you…All the Crutchies

  6. Hi Demers Family
    I am so happy to read all about this adventure.

  7. Let me just say….I don’t think I could have tasted that sheep head either. Bravo, to Thayer and Zoe. XOX

  8. Happy Birthday to Thayer…Hugs, and Kisses

  9. Yogi and I want to Skype you guys, when your mom and dad and JoJo get there. So we have to make a plan ok

  10. That guy totally photobombed your pic…what a weirdo! You guys look great! Love seeing my beautiful nieces! Miss you guys a ton

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