Cape Town is Unique - History and Overview

Apr 29 07:58 2005 Ed Berry Print This Article

The city of Cape Town is situated on the south western tip of the African continent, in one of the most beautiful natural locations in the world. The original inhabitants of the Cape region were the Khoi San people whose ancestry can be traced back thousands of years, through the discovery of fossils and artifacts, to the origins of humanity in Central Africa.

The "Mother City" as Cape Town has become known over the years was the first South African port established by European settlers in the 16th century.

Dutch sailors working for the VOC - Dutch East India Company set up a refreshment station at the Cape. They also established the Company Gardens in the city which was used to provide passing ships on route to the West Indies with fresh produce. The gardens still exist and have been cultivated and transformed into a place of relaxation for Capetonians.

Early Culture and language.The first Muslim slaves were brought in to the Cape from Madagascar in the 17th century to help run the refreshment station. This immigration continued until 1834 and was expanded to include slaves from African countries such as Angola and Mozambique,Guest Posting the West Indies and Sri Lanka.

Various languages were spoken in those early days but the most predominant was Malay. Gradually the Afrikaans language, a simplified form of Dutch containing elements of Malay and originally used for communicating with their masters, took over among the slaves. It spread inland throughout South Africa when descendants of Cape Dutch and French settlers trekked north to colonise the interior and eventually establish the Afrikaner nation.

The Cape Malays of today with their unique Muslim cultural heritage, and the Christian 'coloured' community descended from mixed blood unions between the early settlers, the indigenous Khoi and the slaves who brought their African Indian culture into the Cape.

In the 17th century British settlers arrived and annexed the Cape declaring it a British Colony. They developed the city of Cape Town using slave labour. Slavery was eventually abolished in the 19th century.The British went on to develop and colonise South Africa. Elements of their influence in the Cape are still visble in the architecture of many buildings in the surrounding coastal towns eg. Simonstown

Cape Town Attractions.The ancient Table Mountain often draped in swirling cloud and flanked by its attendants Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, forms an impressive backdrop to the sprawling city of Cape Town and is a well known subject for many postcards and photographs. It stands at the head of a chain of mountains forming the Cape Peninsula National Park which follow the line of the Peninsula to Cape Point.

On the eastern slopes of Table Mountain lie the well known Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens the largest of its kind in South Africa, and home to thousands of varieties of indigenous plants. The oldest wine farm in the country, Groot Constantia, established in the 17th century is situated on the lower slopes of the "Back Table" Its modernised winery is in full production.

The rugged Cape coast is dotted with upmarket suburbs, quaint fishing villages and stretches of sandy beaches separated by massive rocky outcrops - remnants of the original geological formations from which Table Mountain developed. The well known extensive Winelands and historic Cape towns such as Stellenbosch and Paarl, interspersed with rugged mountain ranges are situated an hour or two away, inland.

Cape Town is known for its historic and unique architecture which is still apparent in the city and many of the surrounding communities. It has developed from a number of diverse influences such as Cape Dutch, British and Muslim.

The original stone fort, oldest building in South Africa, now significantly upgraded and known as the Castle, was built on the early shoreline by the Dutch in about 1670 to repel invaders. Another well known city landmark is the Groote Kerk (big church) built around 1700.

Cape Town's location at the juncture of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the influence of the nearby mountain ranges on prevailing air currents means that the Cape experiences a Mediterranean type climate with dry warm to hot summers cooled by south easterly winds, and cool wet winters. The Atlantic sea temperature off the west coast is generally a few degrees colder than that of the Indian Ocean.

The commercial centre in the city bowl comprises modern high rise office blocks and hotels often sandwiching smaller historic buildings built in the original Cape Dutch style. The new Cape Town Convention Centre on the Foreshore is a popular venue for trade exhibitions and music festivals.

The thriving upmarket Cape Town Waterfront is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike. It has developed into one of the most popular venues in the country with its combination of modern retail outlets, artistic markets and laid back entertainment, and is crowded throughout the year

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Ed Berry
Ed Berry

Cape Town Travel Adviser
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