Aromatics and Charm Abound in the Bo-Kaap

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Narrow cobbled streets filled with spicy aromas and rows of brightly coloured houses make for a quaint backdrop against the shadow of Signal Hill. Centuries ago this location against the slopes of its towering landmark, provided a convenient place of settlement, where walking to the local workplace was common practice.

Also coinciding with Cape Town’s inner city renewal process initiated over a decade ago, the close proximity to the city’s central business district from what has become known as the Cape Malay Quarters, has resulted in increased demand for residential property to buy here.

Now an area offering a unique Cape experience with a rich historical and cultural blend, it is typified by children traditionally dressed for Madrassa, playing in the streets while rich aromas escape from nearby kitchens.

As a popular tourism attraction, it offers routes best explored on foot to view any number of old homes and buildings, some which have been declared national museums. The architectural style reflected in the original homes and buildings here dates back to the 1700’s, and is characterised by a Dutch and British influence. The older period homes, which are mostly quaint semi-detached structures, were built along lower Bo-Kaap in Dorp Street, and would originally have been the homes of emancipated slaves, who settled on these conveniently situated mountain slopes.

The Bo-Kaap features a range of old buildings, including a number of mosques, as well as one of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, the Nurul Islam Mosque established in 1844, that is characterized by the muezzin’s calls to prayer, sometimes heard across the city on a windless day. The earliest history of this area can be traced at the local Bo-Kaap Museum that was launched in 1978. It reflects on the history of the original settlers who were groups of freed slaves of the Dutch slave trade from Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia, thought to have been incorrectly branded as Cape Malays.

Staying true to its origins are the influences of exotic spices here, playing a major role in the flavours of traditional dishes typified by combinations of spices, fruit and vegetables. Restaurants here are popular for serving Cape Malay Curries with Rotis, pickled fish, Mavrou and Denningvleis, and the ever popular Peppermint Crisp Fridge Tart. Locals delight in providing opportunities to experience the vibrance of their community, the true flavours of their food, and a heritage of master craftsmanship, at the Monthly Bo-Kaap Crafts and Food Market Day.

And for those searching for property to buy, prices here vary for different categories of structures, which are mostly smaller semi-detached and apartment homes, while large luxury freestanding homes not easily found. Current prices here mostly range from over R1-million, to R1.2-million for a small three bedroom and two bathroom semi-detached house with no parking facilities. Recently sold here for R1.8million is a home with living areas measuring 120m2 across split levels, featuring a balcony, patios with views of Table Mountain, Jacuzzi, swimming pool, two bedrooms, one bathroom, parking bay and guest quarters, and plot size of 79 m2. An attractive renovated eight bedroom home with parking bays and off street parking is currently on the market for R25 000 000.

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