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The Bo-Kaap Museum


Jenny Ellis

Jenny Ellis

Jenny Ellis

Jenny Ellis

Jenny Ellis

The Bo-Kaap Museum is situated in one of the oldest urban residential areas in Cape Town. The earliest development of the Bo-Kaap area, which became known as Waalendorp, was undertaken by Jan de Waal in the 1760s. The house that today incorporates the museum building is the only one built by him that retains its original form. It dates to 1768.

Although the Bo-Kaap has over centuries been home to people of various origins and religions, the area is closely associated with the Muslim community of the Cape. The ancestors of the majority of the Muslims in the Cape arrived from 1658 onwards as slaves, political exiles and convicts from East Africa and South East Asia (India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka).

The first mosque at the Cape, the Auwal Mosque, was built in the neighbourhood in 1804 and is still in use, although much altered over years. By the beginning of the twentieth century roughly half the population in the area was Muslim.

The history of the Bo-Kaap reflects the political processes in South Africa under the Apartheid years. The area was declared an exclusive residential areas for Cape Muslims under the Group Areas Act of 1950 and people of other religions and ethnicity were forced to leave.

At the same time, the neighbourhood is atypical. It is one of the few neighbourhoods with a predominantly working class population that continued to exist near a city centre. In the mid-twentieth century, most working class people in South Africa were moved to the periphery of the cities under the Slum Clearance Act and neighbourhood improvement programmes.

Over the years the Bo-Kaap has been known as the Malay Quarter, the Slamse Buurt or Schotcheskloof.

The Museum was established in 1978 as a satellite of the SA Cultural History Museum. It was furnished as a house that depicts the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century Muslim family.

The museum is being changed into a social history museum that will tell the story of the local community within a national socio-political and cultural context.

Visitor Information
71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Monday to Saturday, 09:00 - 16:00
Closed Sundays, Good Friday, Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha

Telephone: +27 (0)21 481 3939
Fax: +27 (0)21 481 3938


Can anyone tell me where or why Waal Straat or Wale Street as it also seems to be called got its name? Is it because of Jan de Waal and/or the name Waalendorp? I've heard that it had to do with whales being dragged up here and because of a sea wall (waal)?

Posted by: Roger Webb

I was born here, I still feel such a passion for the place each time I returned here to visit my grandparents (Mammie Gaya & Boeta Geem Jardine) who has since passed on.

My father is still resident in the Bo-Kaap so I always have reason to return here.

Posted by: Tunino R. Haskell

I live in Canada and the word "Slams" is being used in the Cape Muslim community. Does the community considered it derogatory. It can clear up debates we have.

Posted by: Jerome Lowers

Never seen this remarkable place, hopefully I will be able to visit
this year, God Willing.

Posted by: Dr. Hafiz Khan

Hey, I visited the museum a few months ago, whilst I was volunteering in Cape Town over from England. It was really nice to see the museum, thank you for making that opportunity available.

Posted by: Jenny Ellis




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