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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
Keeping in touch is important… we all take turns sending emails and enjoying Skype sessions with family and friends back home!
Indoor Fun… On rainy days or lazy days, we stick around the house and find things to do to help the time pass.
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.
Out and about…. we often leave the house to do non-tourist activities too.
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!
Much love to everyone, see you soon! xo