September 25, 2009
Robben Island – A Cape Town Tourism photo essay
In celebration of Heritage Week, we look at Robben Island, once “home” to South Africa’s most famous political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, and an integral part of South Africa’s history.
This is the famous gateway to Robben Island Prison – a sight that would have greeted arriving prisoners and that, perhaps, they would only see again once their sentences had been served.
One of the most beautiful views of Table Mountain, and the same view that would have greeted Dutch sailors in 1652 when arriving at the Cape. The ferry trip to Robben Island provides a unique opportunity to enjoy this stunning view.
This is the famous limestone quarry where the political prisoners worked during the day. The cave is where their tools were stored at the end of each day. The tower at the top was actually a World War II observation tower. The small pile of stones in the middle of the quarry was stacked by ex-prisoners when they visited the island to commemorate their stay. The pile of stones has been preserved in this state since that day.
Cold and draughty passages lead to the former living quarters of the political prisoners.
Tourists sitting enthralled, listening to an ex-prisoner explain how up to 80 prisoners would live and sleep on this cold floor. Intercoms on the wall would relay discussions between the prisoners back to the authorities.
This is the highlight of the tour for most people – the cell where former South African president Nelson Mandela lived and wrote his book, Long Walk to Freedom. This is where he shaped his vision for a peaceful and democratic South Africa. There is a hushed silence as each person on the tour takes their turn to crane their neck and get a glimpse of this famous cell.
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Image © Danie van der Merwe 2009