The City of Cape Town
Cape Town as seen from Table Mountain
History of Cape Town
Cape Town's recorded history begins in 1487 when Bartholmew Diaz sailed around the most south westerly point of Africa. He was on a mission to find the sea route to the East and got caught in a winter storm which swept him southwards past Cape Point and out into the southern Atlantic Ocean.
Gouritz River Mouth
After the storm he found himself out of sight of land so he decided to sail eastwards. After a number of days of sailing eastwards and not finding land he changed course and sailed northwards. There he eventually sighted the southern coastline of Africa and landed at the mouth of the Gouritz River mouth near what today is Mossel Bay.
The Cape of Storms
Further navigators followed in Diaz's footsteps and in 1580 Sir Francis Drake sailed around the Cape in The Golden Hind. The breathtaking beauty and the ruggedness of the Cape Peninsula impressed Drake to such an extent that he wrote - "This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape in the whole circumference of the earth". Cape Town is known by two names. "The Fairest Cape" which is the name used during the summer months when the south east trade winds blow and the Cape is at its most beautiful and the "Cape of Storms" is the name that is used in the winter months when the storm clouds gather and the Cape is battered by strong north winds and very rough seas.
The Establishment of Cape Town
Woodstock Beach where the Haarlem ran aground
The beginning of the Cape colony came about when in 1647 the Dutch ship Haarlem ran aground in Table Bay stranding the crew on the beach with no way of getting back to Holland. These people had no option but to make a garden to feed themselves until they could be rescued. When the survivors returned to Holland they reported that the Cape was fertile and suitable for growing vegetables and fruit.
Statue of Jan van Riebeeck on the Foreshore
Their first task was to establish a fort and a garden. The Grand Parade in Cape Town is the site that was chosen for the fort and the gardens were laid out nearby. The outpost set up by van Riebeeck became a popular stop for not only Dutch ships but others as well and this forced the Dutch East Company to let sailors and soldiers in its service settle at the Cape and start their own farms. In 1658 the first slaves were imported, from the East Indies and Central Africa to help with the increasing workload and demand for food, water and meat from the passing ships. By the time van Riebeek left for India in 1662 the little settlement had a fort, a hospital, a jetty, workshops and a granary, as well as houses.
The Castle with its moat around it
In 1662 the new governor at the Cape started work on the new fort which was built a short way from he existing wooden fort on the Parade. This fort is today known as the Castle of the Cape of Good Hope and is built in the shape of a star with five bastions. The fort was built on the shores
of Table Bay. Today the sea has been moved back by reclaiming land. The castle now finds itself in the middle of the city.
The Slave Lodge on the corner of Adderley and Wale Streets
The Dutch had imported many slaves during their tenure in the Cape. The British did not like the slave trade so abolished it in 1808. After 20 years of negotiations the Khoisan were finally given the explicit protection of the law which included the right to own land. The outlawing of slavery caused the Dutch (who by this stage had become known as Afrikaners)much dissatisfaction and they decided to leave the Cape en masse. This migration of the Afrikaner became known as the Groot Trek.
Cape Town is today a bustling city with a population in excess of 3.75 million people. Although the Apartheid regime of the nationalist party has long gone the people of Cape Town mainly stay in the areas that were designated to them by Apartheid. Integration is happening slowly as people with money can now afford to buy into previously designated white areas.
St Georges Mall
Some of the older buildings are the Castle, Houses of Parliament, Groote Kerk and Greenmarket Square. Some of Cape Town's streets have been turned into walking malls. St Georges Street is one such street which now forms part of the fan walk set up during the 2010 Fifa world cup.
The Company gardens still exist alongside the houses of parliament and St Georges Cathedral. These are all tourist destinations to be visited.
V & A Waterfront
The main tourist attractions in Cape Town today are the V & A Waterfront which was once the old harbour in the city before the Duncan Dock was built. Table Mountain the icon of the city is one of the main attractions as is the Kirstenbosch gardens.
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Did you know ?
Table Mountain is made up of three rock types. Sandstone at the top, shale in the middle and granite at the base.
Did you know ?
Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Cape Town in 1652 and established what today is known as the Company gardens.
Did you know ?
The statue of Jan van Riebeeck pictured in the main article on this page is sited where van Riebeeck anchored his three ships when he arrived in the Cape in 1652. The beach where he landed is no longer a beach but part of the reclaimed foreshore. The sea has been pushed back by around 2000 metres from where it once was.