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Cape Town
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Cape Town

Cape Town, one of South Africa's three capital cities (the others are Pretoria and Bloemfontein), and capital of the Western Cape Province, is most famous for its mountain, aptly named Table Mountain because of its flat top. The agglomeration is estimated to have a population of about 2.9 million (estimate from 2001 census).


It was founded by the Dutch East India Company to be used as a replenishing station for ships sailing on the trade route to Indonesia. The location was chosen for its sheltered bay which formed a natural harbour and protected ships from the strong prevailing wind, the South-Easter. The first European settlement was led by Jan van Riebeek, who arrived on 6 April 1652.

The seas around Cape Town are notorious and it was referred to as the "Cape of Storms". However the Dutch displaced the Khoi and San who were the native inhabitants. The Dutch imported slaves from Asia. The descendants of these slaves (known as the "Cape Malays"), along with the mixed race-offspring of natives and white settlers, eventually became the ethnic group called the "Coloureds". Later the English conquered the Dutch to gain control of this strategic port.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town, Robben Island until his transfer to a prison near Paarl.


Today, Cape Town is a popular tourist destination, offering the visitor a wide variety of activities such as water sports (including diving, surfing and sailing), angling, wine-tasting, shopping, scenic drives, mountaineering, hiking, kite-flying, hang-gliding and parasailing, and bird- and whale-watching.

The most popular time for visitors is the summer from October to March, though some visitors from more temperate climates might find the height of summer (December and January) uncomfortably hot. The city also becomes very crowded then as the local holidaymakers descend on the city for their summer school holidays. The most popular tourist attractions are, in order of popularity: The Victoria & Alfred waterfront;, a popular shopping venue with thousands of shops, a fine hotel, a world-class marina and an aquarium; Table Mountain, which can be accessed either by walking or a cable car; Cape Point; and Boulders Beach, home to a colony of penguins.

Boat trips can be undertaken from the Victoria & Alfred marina to visit Robben Island. It is a well known spot for windsurfers/kitesurfering, mainly in the summer seasons (September to February).

Local wineries offer tastings and informative tours are available. August and September are the best time to visit the west coast, because the desert comes to life after the winter rains and the wild flowers bloom in profusion.

A cable car system takes visitors to the top of Table Mountain, though it only operates in good weather as gale-force winds can make it dangerous or clouds can obscure the view from the summit. The operating status (open or closed) of the cable car is posted on a signboard at Kloof Nek.

General Information

The area is also famous for its unique plant life: Fynbos (an Afrikaans word meaning "fine bush"), a semi-desert plant family to which Proteas belong and which occurs nowhere else but the Cape coastal belt. These plants are so adapted to their arid environment that they are used in dried floral arrangements.

The airport in Cape Town is Cape Town International Airport, code CPT.

Sports Teams

Cape Town boasts three soccer teams in the Premier League, Santos (based in Athlone), Ajax Cape Town (based in Newlands) and Hellenic Football Club.

The Cape Town suburb of Newlands, besides being the home of Ajax Cape Town, is also the home of the Western Province rugby team, one of the powerhouses in South African rugby, as well as Western Province cricket. Newlands is also home to one of South Africa's four Super 12 rugby franchises, the Stormers.

See also: Cape of Good Hope

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