Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad (ˈkɑːpstat); Xhosa: iKapa), the town and seaport, South Africa’s legislative capital and the capital of the province of Western Cape. It is one of the most historically significant cities in South Africa. It was here, in the Mother City, that the first European colonists set foot in South Africa, marking the beginning of the slave trade in South Africa as well. It is South Africa’s second-most populous city, after Johannesburg, and also South Africa’s legislative capital. It is the largest city in the Western Cape Province, colloquially called the Mother City, and forms part of the metropolitan municipality of Cape Town. It was the birthplace of possibly the most prominent political prisoner in the world, Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned on Table Bay’s tiny Robben Island.

Cape Town City

Cape Town is renowned for its harbor, it’s natural setting in the Floristic Area of the Cape, and landmarks such as Table Mountain and Cape Point. The city lies about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the Cape Peninsula, on its southernmost border, north of the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town is regarded as the “mother city” of the country because it was the site of the first European settlement in South Africa. In 2014, both The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph called Cape Town the best place in the world to visit. For both the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Cape Town has also been a host city and hosts the World Rugby 7s Africa leg annually.

Sections of the city and its suburbs wind around the steep slopes of Table Mountain (3,563 feet (1,086 meters) high) and neighboring peaks and rim the shores of Table Bay; other parts lie on the flats below the slopes or extend southwards through the flats to False Bay. Cape Town has a beautiful setting. Cultivated areas, such as the historic Garden of the Business, the National Botanical Garden of Kirstenbosch and the Urban Park of Green Point, also make visiting the city a pleasure. By taking full advantage of the plentiful outdoor space, follow the lead of locals: learn to surf; go hiking or mountain biking; tandem-paraglide off Lion’s Head; abseil off the top of Table Mountain, just a few of the many activities on offer.

In 1652, when the Dutch East India Company built a refreshment station for its ships on the shores of Table Bay, the city of Cape Town had its beginnings. The position was beautiful, under the precipitous walls of Table Mountain, on well-watered, fertile ground. Long before the first Europeans arrived, Table Mountain and the surrounding region were home to the Khoisan people. French, Danish, Dutch, and English, but mostly Portuguese, ships continued to stop regularly in Table Bay on their way to the Indies in the late 16th century. In exchange for fresh meat and other provisions, they exchanged tobacco, copper, and iron with the Khoekhoe clans of the area.

City of Cape Town at the foot of Table Mountain as seen from Bloubergstrand

The French formed a garrison in 1781 to help the Netherlands protect the city against British attack, and local architecture and culture were affected by the French presence. In the 19th century, British occupation brought fresh parliamentary and judicial ideas and independence for the slaves. Cape Town was the gateway to the penetration of the South African interior by Europe, and strong relations were maintained with continental Europe. Cape Town was permanently ceded to the UK in the 1814 Anglo-Dutch Treaty. It became the capital of the newly founded Cape Colony; whose territory grew in the 1800s quite significantly.

One of Cape Town’s oldest rituals is still alive and well, shocking tourists every day at precisely midday. An old cannon is being shot off at the top of Signal Hill, sending a resounding boom around the CBD. Originally, it was intended to declare that ships were arriving, to let merchants know it was time to take their goods down to the harbor. The gun has been going off since 1806, and in the event of a misfire, a second gun is still prepared. Rumor has it that in those two centuries, the gun only failed once because a spider interfered with the remote signal. The Union of South Africa, which united the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal, was founded by Britain in 1910. The legislative capital of the Union, and later of the Republic of South Africa, became Cape Town.

Today, with high-rise office buildings and pedestrian malls, Cape Town is a modern city. While it is a major political and economic hub, its prestige still rests on its beautiful mountain-sea situation, its cosmopolitan population, and many of its citizens’ liberal outlook. Cape Town was the birthplace of the anti-apartheid movement’s many leaders. Many prominent political prisoners were held for years on Robben Island, a former penitentiary island 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the capital. Nelson Mandela delivered his first public speech since his detention, from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after being released on 11th February 1990, in one of the most prominent moments marking the end of apartheid. His speech heralded the beginning of a new era for the country, and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27th April 1994.

Clifton Beach at Cape Town City

In this proudly multicultural area, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and traditional African beliefs co-exist peacefully. Given the turbulent past of South Africa, such peace has been difficult and remains fragile: almost everyone has to say a fascinating, often tragic tale. Cape Town’s climate is the Mediterranean in nature; it is locally modified by the mass of Table Mountain and the South Atlantic Ocean’s cold Benguela Current. In January and February, the average high temperature is 70°F (21°C), and the average low is 55°F (13°C) in July, although the temperatures on the mountain slopes and on the coast are colder. Freezing takes place infrequently. On average, 69 days of the year are rainy; about half of the 26 inches (660 millimeters) of the annual rainfall falls in southern winters between June and August.

Cape Town is currently situated at 33.55° S latitude (approximately the same as Sydney and Buenos Aires and the northern hemisphere counterpart of Casablanca and Los Angeles) and 18.25° E longitude. A spectacular mountain backdrop enclosing the central area of Cape Town, the so-called City Bowl, is created by Table Mountain, with its near-vertical cliffs and flat-topped summit over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) high, and with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head on either side. The early settlement’s narrow streets run parallel to the sea. The main thoroughfare became the road that led from the shore inland to the produce garden of the Dutch East India Company. The Castle of Good Hope, constructed by the company between 1666 and 1679, stands in Strand Lane, on what was once the shore of Table Bay. Within Cape Town’s official city limits, there are over 70 peaks above 300 m (980 ft). On the broad plain called the Cape Flats, which stretches over 50 kilometers (30 mi) to the east and links the peninsula to the mainland, many of the city’s suburbs lie.

Much of the early architecture of Cape Town reflected Dutch prototypes that were altered for the area. Flat roofs, projecting porches, and distinctive gables were included in the features. A French architect who arrived in 1783, Louis-Michel Thibault, designed a lot that was then trendy, including the construction of the Old Supreme Court, now the Museum of South African Cultural History. The city of Cape Town has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any comparable area in the world, located in a CI Biodiversity hotspot as well as the special Cape Floristic Zone. These protected areas are a World Heritage Site, and an estimated 2,200 plant species are more confined to Table Mountain than there are 1200 plant species and 67 endangered plant species in the entire United Kingdom. Many of these species are native to the mountains, including many forms of protea, and cannot be found anywhere else.

Before the discovery and exploration of minerals in the interior, Cape Town was the economic base of South Africa; it is today one of the most significant manufacturing centers of the nation and a major seaport. Cape Town distributes about nine-tenths of the fish consumed in South Africa, and Table Bay is one of the largest fruit-exporting harbors in the world. It is home to a total of 19 distinct forms of vegetation, many of which are city-endemic and exist nowhere else in the world. It is also the only ecosystem that is seriously limited or endangered by hundreds of native species and hundreds of others. The basic industries in the city are related to ship repair and maintenance, food processing, winemaking, and the manufacturing of garments, plastics, and leather products. Tourism is of increasing significance.

It is a city of determined settlers to descendants of European Jewish refugees and more recent Xhosa (isiXhosa) migrants from the Eastern Cape, from the African descendants of the original Dutch colonists and the majority-colored group. In Cape Town’s rich melting pot, they all bring special flavors.

 

Information Sources:

  1. lonelyplanet.com
  2. capetown.travel
  3. britannica.com
  4. wikipedia