Every day except Sunday the Noon Gun rings out across Cape Town from Signal Hill, just as it has done for the last 200 years.
As tourists jump in surprise and Capetonians check their watches, a puff of white smoke blows off the hill, a tiny cousin of the cloud that so often shrouds Table Mountain. The view from Signal Hill is also not as grand as the one from Cape Town’s most famous landmark but it comes into its own in the evening, when couples park their cars to admire the city looking its best under a kindly blanket of lights.
At dusk, I hear another sound: the call of the mosques of Bo-Kaap, the community of brightly-painted houses that decorate the lower slopes of Signal Hill. These are some of the oldest houses in the country, dating back to between 1750 and 1850 and have been home to Cape Malays since 1790.
A distinct part of the so-called “Coloured” community, Cape Malays are largely descendants of Asians, a mix of slaves, skilled workmen and political exiles brought in by the Dutch from the mid 17th century onwards when the indigenous Africans refused to work for the European invaders. They brought their Muslim religion with them and in Bo-Kaap you still can see men wearing kufeers (fezzes) and women in headscarves, as well as boys in Islamic robes.
On their way home from madrasas, the youths carry both their books of religious instruction and footballs, a hint of the changes facing this intimate community of perhaps 6,000 people.
Want to know more about Bo-Kaap and other parts of Cape Town? Connect with Karl, a true Capetonian!