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April 02, 2012

Historic Cape Town: Fun facts about the City

It's been 360 years since Cape Town was founded by Jan van Riebeeck and the and the Dutch East India Company settlers. Photo courtesy of Liberty LittleBasil

With Cape Town 360 years old this year, here are some interesting facts about the city:

Table Mountain’s flat top was formed about 300 million years ago. The mountain was at sea level during an ice age and ice sheets flattened the layers of sandstone to form the famous landmark.

• Hand axes made by Homo Erectus, dating back 750 000 years, have been found near Cape Town.

• The San and the Khoikhoi are the first recorded peoples of the Cape. The San were hunter-gatherers while the Khoikhoi were mainly herders.

• In later years, the Khoisan generation called the area Hoerikwaggo, meaning “mountain that rises from the sea”.

• Cape Town is situated on an underground river called Camissa, meaning “place of sweet waters”.

• In the 1500s, Portuguese sailors encountered storms as they sailed around the Cape Peninsula and dubbed it “the Bay of Storms”.

• Jan Van Riebeeck and Dutch East India Company settlers landed at the Cape on April 6, 1652. They had been sent to the Cape to establish a supply station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies.

• Asian immigration to South Africa started in 1654 when slaves from Malaysia were brought to the Cape, in turn encouraging the spread of the Islamic faith in Cape Town culture.

• There are more than 20 kramats (Islamic spiritual grave sites) in the Cape Peninsula, and an additional four in the city’s outer lying areas.

• Cape Town has its own unique mix of indigenous music called Ghoema, closely associated with the Cape Malay culture having its origins linked to the musical culture of the Malay slaves.

• Cape Town celebrates Tweede Nuwe Jaar, meaning “Second New Year”, in the form of a parade of singing and dancing Kaapse Klopse minstrels. This tradition has its origins in the Cape Malay slaves who celebrated the ringing in of a New Year on the only day they were offered leave from work each year – 2 January. This tradition has carried on for almost two hundred years.

• Britain seized Cape Town from the Dutch in 1795. In 1803 it was returned to The Netherlands and, by 1806, was back in the hands of the British. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, Cape Town was conceded to Britain, becoming the capital of the Cape Colony.

• Cape Town has the oldest wine industry outside Europe and the Mediterranean, dating back to 2 February 1659 when Jan van Riebeeck produced the first wine recorded in South Africa.

• On 31 May 1836 Darwin’s HMS Beagle arrived at Simon's Bay, near Cape Town, on its way home to South America. Darwin trailed through the Cape for 18 days while doing research here.

• The original Table Mountain Cableway opened for business on 4 October 1929, transporting millions of visitors, as well as the current Queen of England, Elizabeth ll, to its smooth summit.

• The oldest living tradition in Cape Town is the firing of the Noon Day Gun at Lion Battery on Signal Hill. The Noon Day cannons are also two of the oldest cannons in the world still in daily use.

• Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant in the world in 1967 in Cape Town at Groote Schuur Hospital.

District Six is an inner city residential area made famous by the forced removal of more than 60 000 inhabitants during the 1970s. The District Six Museum was established in 1994.

• Cape Town’s City Hall was built in 1905. On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela made his first public speech after his release from Robben Island, on the balcony of the City Hall.

 

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