Cape Town is one of South Africa’s most Historically important Cities. It was here, in the Mother City, where the first European colonists set foot in South Africa—which also marked the beginning of the South African slave trade. It was Home to perhaps the World’s most famous political prisoner—Nelson Mandela—who was held on the tiny Robben Island in Table Bay.
Roughly 300 Million Years ago, during the Karoo Ice Age, Table Mountain wasn’t a Mountain at all! It was at Sea Level but what lay beneath was layers of sandstone, set atop a granite base. Pressure from the underlying magma worked with the ice to harden the top layer, leaving the iconic flat slab we see today. As the Continents tore apart and collided, the City’s famous Landmark was gradually forced to rise and it now stands a Kilometre tall overlooking the Bay. The 'Table Mountain Aerial Cableway', is nearly a Century old. Before then, the only way up the Mountain was by foot. On 4 October 1929, after two Years of difficult and dangerous work, the first Cable Car chugged its way to the top filled with excited and probably very nervous visitors! It’s been upgraded a number of times since, and today the trip to the top is smooth sailing and the Cab actually revolves, slowly, giving the person a 360 Degree view of Cape Town!
From flat-topped Table Mountain down to the blue waters of Table Bay, Cape Town is simply stunning, but the City doesn't thrive by its looks alone! Proudly multicultural, its flourishing arts, dining, and nightlife scenes are proof of this modern Metropolis, eternal creativity and innovative spirit. Table Mountain and the surrounding Area was Home to the Khoisan people long before the first Europeans arrived. They called the City:"Hui Gaeb". They were skilled and industrious people with an unmatched knowledge of the local fauna and flora. They also gave Table Mountain its first name: Hoerikwaggo, or “Mountain in the Sea”. Today, Afrikaans is the second most common language spoken in Cape Town followed by Xhosa. English is the most common language. The first Settlement of Cape Town was situated between Table Mountain and Table Bay. It was bounded on the North West by the Mountain 'Ridges', known as Lion’s Head and Lion’s Rump (later called Signal Hill), on the North by Table Bay, on the South by Devil’s Peak, and on the East by marshlands and the sandy Cape Flats beyond. The nearest Fertile Land was on the lower Eastern slopes of Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain and, farther to the Southeast, at Rondebosch, Newlands, and Wynberg. From the Castel that protected the Settlement, a track led South past these lands to False Bay on the Eastern side of the Cape Peninsula and on beyond Muizenberg and Kalk Bay to Simon’s Bay, where the East Indian man trade ships could find shelter from North Westerly winter gales. The constraints of Mountain, Sea, and sand shaped the direction of Cape Town’s growth, and the pattern was followed in subsequent Road and Rail construction. A Railway Line reached Wynberg in 1864 and Muizenberg in 1883, and another Line ran Eastward from Cape Town across the Flats to the Interior.
It all started after the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias, became the first European to set eyes on what is now Cape Town after he rounded the Cape by ship in the late 1400's. But the Dutch colonist Jan van Riebeeck became the first European to set foot on its soil in 1652. He was sent by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), to establish a Supply Station for ships on their way from Europe to India. Jan van Riebeeck, stepped ashore to select Sites for a Fort and a vegetable Garden. In 1657 the company began to release men from its employ so that they could become free burghers (citizens) and farmers, and in 1658 the company began to import slaves. Inland from Table Mountain, a second company Farm was established at Newlands, and vines were planted on the slopes of Wynberg (“Wine Mountain”). Shortly after Van Riebeeck had established the Supply Station, the VOC brought slaves from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to work on the Farms that supplied the fruit and vegetables to passing ships. The Indigenous inhabitants provided cattle but not labour, so the VOC imported slaves, mainly from East Africa, Madagascar, and the Bay of Bengal Area. The slaves brought with them something of their culture namely, the Islamic faith along with the delectable Cape Malay cuisine.
Since it was only first colonized in 1652, Cape Town was tossed back and forth between two of the greatest colonial powers of the time, the British and the Dutch. The Dutch were in charge for the first Century and a half after Colonization. Mixed-race unions took place, but strong racial and ethnic characteristics remained. In 1781 the French established a garrison to help the Dutch defend the City against British attack, and the French presence influenced local Architecture and Culture. British occupation in the 19th Century brought new Parliamentary and Judicial concepts and freedom for the slaves! Cape Town was the gateway to Europe’s penetration of the South African interior, and close ties with continental Europe were maintained. Britain took over in 1795, only to lose the colony to the Dutch in 1803. Another three years passed before the Cape was back in British hands, where it stayed for the next Century and a bit. Finally, in the early 1900's, South Africa was granted independence, but it was another 90 Years before the first democratic elections took place! Today, Cape Town is the Legislative Capital of South Africa.
One of the oldest traditions in Cape Town is still alive and well, startling visitors at precisely midday, every day. An old cannon at the top of Signal Hill is fired off, sending a resounding 'boom' around the CBD. It was originally meant to announce approaching ships, to let traders know it was time to haul their wares down to the harbour. The gun has gone off since 1806, and a second gun is always prepared in case of a misfire. The gun only failed once in those two Centuries—because a spider interfered with the remote signal.
The once bustling creative hub of District Six, on the outskirts of the City, became famous for all the wrong reasons. During the 1970's the then Apartheid Government forcibly removed more than 60,000 residents to other Areas outside the ‘white’ City limits, and demolished the Houses that made up the bustling Neighbourhood. However, in 1990, just two blocks from District 6 and the CBD, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech since being released from prison on Robben Island, from the Balcony of Cape Town’s, City Hall.
Cape Town is a modern City with high-rise office Buildings and pedestrian Malls. Although it is a major Political and Economic Centre, its reputation still rests on its beautiful situation between Mountain and Sea, its cosmopolitan population, and the liberal outlook of many of its citizens! It now exports World famous, wine from various wine Farms a has become popular tourist destination because of its different; Cultures, and History!
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