I had been looking forward to visiting Bo Kaap to see the iconic colorful houses since arriving in Cape Town. Bo Kaap, which translates to “Upper Cape” in Afrikaans, is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill just above the city center. Settled in the 1700s by Dutch colonists, the area is made up of brightly colored, Dutch-style, single story houses.
Europeans lived in the area alongside freed slaves from East Africa, Asia, and Madagascar, who brought their traditions with them to the Cape. During the forced segregation of the apartheid era, the Muslim descendants of these people were forced to live in the Bo Kaap area. During that time, the Cape Malay culture grew stronger and traditional dishes were modified to utilize the spices and foods available in the area.
Today, Bo Kaap still maintains a majority Muslim population, but it is increasingly threatened with gentrification as home prices increase and wealthy foreigners become more and more interested in the unique historic area.
In addition to touring the area, I wanted to learn to make some delicious Cape Malay dishes for myself, so I attended the famous Bo Kaap Cooking Tour with Zainie, a local cook who has been featured in articles and television programs worldwide. In the class, I learned to fold samoosas, mold roti, fry chili bites, and mix my own masala for Cape Malay chicken curry. We ended the class and tour by sharing the meal family-style with Zainie in her home.