African shoestrings – South Africa Day Thirty-one – Cape Muslim quarter Cape Town
You know Cape Town is really a very beautiful place. It’s up there with the likes of Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and San Francisco as places of natural beauty. With the Atlantic Ocean on its western and northern sides and the brooding presence of Cradle Mountain to the south, it’s in a great location.
Of course location doesn’t mean that the city itself is necessarily a great place to be.
I suppose on a scale of one to ten I would rate it around five or six. It’s much like any other New World city, lots of people going about their daily business, with the usual social problems like homelessness fairly evident in the form of beggars and glue sniffing street kids.
It does have of course quite a history, being first settled in 1652 by the Dutch. And they have managed to retain a lot of the Architecture that sprung up in the first 200 years or so. Unfortunately most of it is quite boring!
We did a walk tour to explore some of these ‘attractions’ and the only attractive buildings were the Dutch Cape SA museum and the president’s house.
What was fascinating was the Cape Muslim Quarter. It’s mainly inhabited by descendants of slaves or political prisoners from the Dutch East Indies and you’ve guessed it, they are mostly Muslim. Here we found cobbled streets, mosques and flat roofed colourful houses. We also found that there was no one there, well at least no other tourists! This made us quite uncomfortable, after all, most guidebooks advise you not to go into deserted areas as this makes you a mugging potential. Personally I didn’t think we had anything to worry about but I was still grateful to enter the relative safety of the Bo-Kaap museum a building furnished as a nineteenth century Muslim home where we finally found two other tourists, looking equally as nervous.
Needless to say we survived the rest of the Cape Muslim quarter and found our way to ‘the Company Gardens’ six hectares of botanical gardens that were originally Jan van Riebeecks vegetable garden planted soon after the first settlement. Jan van Riebeeck, for those of you who don’t know, lead the initial settlement back in 1652 and from all accounts was instrumental, in his time there, in establishing the Cape colony against all odds.