mother city of Africa and the Western Cape'
With its beautiful location, tucked into the arms
of a broad bay, surrounded by natural, white sand beaches and set
against the canvas of Table Mountain, Cape Town is 1 of the most
stunning cities in the world. Lovingly nicknamed the Mother
City, the city is the epicentre of South Africa’s
Western Cape region and the seat of South Africa’s parliament.
Formerly home to the nomadic Khoi people for at least 30,000 years,
the Cape Peninsula was 1st settled, on 6 April 1652, by Dutch sailors
led by Jan van Riebeek of the Dutch East India Company.
Portuguese explorer Bartholemew Diaz had already
discovered the Cape in 1488 and named it Cabo Tormentoso or ‘Cape
of Storms’, however Portugal’s King John II later renamed
it ‘Cape of Good Hope’. It then became a British colony
in 1795, when the British Empire extended its borders. The city
has been the 1st port of call for several European settlers, entrepreneur
and religious refugee, as well as for Indian, Madagascan and South
East Asian slaves. All these people combined with the local Xhosa
and Khoi population and the city became a melting pot of religions,
cultures, styles and flavours.
Nowadays, traders from other African countries (such as Zimbabwe,
Malawi, Ethiopia and Nigeria) also favour Cape Town, mainly because
there are so many tourists there. The city has
a reputation for being the most tolerant and hospitable city in
South Africa, with a strong diversity and open minded generosity.
Capetonians are proud of their easy going and laid back nature,
jokingly known as the ‘Cape coma’, so different from
their more hectic counterparts in the north.
On the streets, a great variety of languages are
spoken, while stalls selling all manner of crafts, textiles and
food are squashed among art galleries, American style malls, European
fashion boutiques, luxury hotels, backpacker lodges and the ubiquitous
chains. In summer, it is complicated to escape the glitz of the
international media, whether fashion shoots, film crews, music videos
or commercials, lured by exotic locations, great foreign exchange
rates, a world class infrastructure and seemingly continuous supply
of drop dead gorgeous models and extras.
Although Cape Town is unquestionably on the up and up, it is still
delimited by the ever visible legacy of apartheid. The 1st glimpse
of the city coming from the airport is of shanty towns
or townships, a hangover from the days of the well
known Group Areas Act, which reserved the prime city land for whites
only. At the foot of Table Mountain, the area acknowledged
as District Six (once populated by the local mixed race community
known as ‘Cape coloured’), now renamed Zonnebloem, is
still somewhat of a ghost town, although housing development is
in progress. The inhabitants were moved to the desolate and windswept
Cape Flats, which has become well known as the gangland of disaffected
Cape Town youth. Even today, comparatively few non whites live in
the more upmarket suburbs, although some of the former townships
are gradually turning into middle class estates
as the economic circumstances improve.
Nevertheless, natural splendour spreads out from
Cape Town. To the south, the flawless beaches of the Cape Peninsula
are fringed with attractive towns and mansions ending in the beautiful
Cape Point nature reserve. To the east lies the mystifying magnificence
of the Overberg, the deserted beaches, rolling plains and lofty
mountains of the Southern Cape. To the north and north west, the
misty and severe beauty of the West Coast, the basic wilderness
of the Cedarberg and the verdant valley of Ceres await the traveller.
Numerous visitors think that Cape Town is best during the peak
summer months (December to February) however it is attractive
all year round. Summer brings extensive, hot beach days and balmy
outdoor evenings, but they could also be portrayed as scorching
and overcrowded and there is the chance of the legendary strong
Spring (September to November) brings blooms of
flowers, whilst autumn (March to May) guarantees a golden haze of
warm days. Winter (June to August), although wet
and often cold, is combined with weeks that are both clear and warm.
The city is free of tourists and wonderfully green, dolphins and
whales stop in the several small bays along the coastline, and waterfalls,
the most impressive sight of this secret season, streak silver paths
down the mountains.