It’s said that colour impacts our mood and when you walk down the streets of the Bokaap you will find that the bright colours will make you feel happy. There’s something about this place which used to be home to slaves, which later became multicultural and eventually was declared a Cape Malay quarter by the Apartheid state which draws tourists and locals in. The colours of the homes and their mountain background make the Bokaap a photographic gem. That being said it’s still a residential area. Gentrification threatens the area and residents have stood strong protesting high rise developments. I searched the internet and haven’t found any tips on how to act whilst visiting the Bokaap whilst respecting the residents my answer to this conundrum is this article which I hope you will find.
Don’t make assumptions
I saw an Instagram post by a tourist stating that the residents of the Bokaap were protesting against the influx of tourists to the area. This was completely untrue. The residents don’t have a problem with respectful tourists. They are protesting against hotels and apartments being built which do not fit into the aesthetic of the community. Residents also don’t want their area to be known for traffic jams and want business owners to help uplift the community not to just take profits made and invest them solely outside of the Bokaap.
Don’t spread misinformation
Be sure you know what you’re posting on social media. The instagrammer I mentioned above was spreading misinformation by not knowing what people were protesting against. Do some research first in order to stay well informed.
Don’t just take photos
Yes it’s a vibrant place everyone will want to take photos but, know that these are homes not monuments. If you see people standing at their doors ask them if it’s ok to take a photo of them. If they say no have respect and accept the no. I’ve heard a women complain that a photographer took a photo of her whilst she was cleaning, she wasn’t wearing her headscarf as a Muslim women she felt violated as she believes it’s inappropriate for people to see her without her scarf. The same goes for taking photos of children ask their parents’ permission first. Be aware and think before you click.
Learn the history
Go to the Bokaap museum often tours will skip this visit in favour of being outside to see the homes. Try to go to the museum. You will learn more about the area, see historical photos, object and documents and this will allow you to appreciate the struggle and culture of the Bokaap.
The Bokaap remains a mostly Cape Malay area. The dominate religion practice in the area is Islam. There have been attempts at introducing bars and liquor stores in the area all which the residents protested. Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Islam as the Prophet Mohammed stated it shouldn’t be consumed by followers of the faith. You aren’t even supposed to be in close proximity of people who are drinking. Many Muslim women choose to cover their heads with a scarf in order to be modest. This therefore, means visitors should be sober when visiting and although it doesn’t matter if you’re not wearing a headscarf try to be respectful of the residents who do. If you plan on entering a Mosque remember that you should cover up and wear a scarf, women and both men and women must remove their shoes at the Mosque. Don’t be rowdy as there are many mosques in the area where people go to pray. Muslims pray 5 times a day and during Ramadaan Muslims fast from Daybreak till Sunset. Greeting with your left hand is seen as disrespectful as the right hand is for eating and greeting. The left is for cleaning dirt and washing your private parts. Also some Muslims will not shake hands with the opposite sex. Some Muslims will also not want to be seated next to someone from the opposite gender. Also most Muslims will want to eat only at Halaal restaurants. If you do make friends with a Muslim local be considerate and if you don’t know how to act ask. Like I said previously try to learn about the culture in order to know a bit. All people find a willingness to learn about their culture enduring.
Support local businesses
The Bokaap kitchen, Rose corner café and Atlas trading are a few of the local businesses in the area. Have a meal at the Bokaap kitchen, try a koesister at Rose corner café and purchase aromatic spices at Atlas trading company. Supporting local businesses increases the community development and will ensure that the area doesn’t become gentrified.
Throwing waste on the streets is never good no matter where you go. Keep your litter with you or find a bin no one likes a litter bug.
Don’t waste water
If you end up booking a room in the area please try to use water sparingly. Cape Town has survived water crises but our dams are still in the 60 range. This means that we still need everyone to help conserve water.
If you are going to be driving in the area be aware that the main street, Wale Street can get pretty full fast. Follow the traffic rules and please don’t park in front of residents parking bays or their doors.
Research your tour
Before booking a tour ask questions, find reviews on Trip advisor and blogs. I’m saying this because some tour operators may not even know the true history of the area and will perpetuate myths. Bilqees Baker has a overall high approval rating she is a local and you can book a tour with her at : https://www.contexttravel.com/cities/cape-town/tours/bo-kaap-tour-cape-malay-enclave
Be careful with your belongings and take note of your surroundings when taking photos. If it is possible walk with a tour group or a friend. If not go during the day and try to stick to the busier streets such as Wale and Rose street. There have been incidents of muggings although the area is generally safe. I often walk around alone during the day in the Bokaap. Also if you can visit on a weekday in the morning it will be less crowded. I have read people complaining on Trip advisor that the area is too touristy. I don’t agree with that yes there are people taking photos often but some of them are locals like me. Plus the crowds of the Bokaap are nothing compared to that of Paris or Venice.
For more information:
Check out my video slide show on the Bokaap:
If you have been to the Bokaap please let me know what you think. Thank you so much for reading and take care.