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November 10, 2009

Cape Town Military Tattoo


The Cape coastline is one of the city’s biggest attractions and bears testament to its rich nautical and military history. Cape Town has a reputation as being a cosmopolitan, creolised port city, starting with the original inhabitants, the Xhosa, Khoi and San, to the onset of colonialism with first Portuguese, then Dutch, French and British rule. In the 18th century, 63 000 slaves from Madagascar, India, Malaysia and Mozambique were brought to Cape Town, adding to the melting pot of cultures and modern history that is reflected in the stories, characters and architecture of the Mother City.

In light of this, we celebrate our city’s rich nautical and military history this week and kick off with the Cape Town Military Tattoo, which takes place at the Castle of Good Hope from November 19-21 amid live cannon fire, an 1812 overture, military bands and bagpipes and drums!

Now, many of you might wonder what exactly the Military Tattoo is. A kaleidoscope of movement and music, the tattoo comprises a series of short, fast-moving acts. The structure of the tattoo is similar to that of international events, but with a focus on acts from Cape Town and the history of South Africa and the rest of the continent, in line with the theme of Gateway to Africa.

The tattoo’s military roots are centuries old – it started when evening patrols used to go out to the garrison towns to call soldiers from the taverns for the last parade of the day. They would visit each tavern and call out to the innkeepers, “Doe den tap toe!” which translates to “Close the taps on your beer barrels!” This gave rise to a unique form of entertainment that can only be provided by the armed forces.

The Military Tattoo will be produced by a team of Regulars and Reserves from the South African National Defence Force, who will be supported by the Cape Town City Council.

What can you expect to see at the Tattoo?

  • The show will start with the 1720’s Beating the Retreat.
  • The Key Ceremony will take place by a squad selected from the Castle Guard.
  • A military band performance, pipes, drums and horse acts.
  • A rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and live gunfire from the Cape Field Artillery.
  • The tattoo will end of with the Final Muster.

When, where and how?

  • When: November 19-21, 2009
  • Where: Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town
  • Tickets can be bought from Computicket and cost R70 for adults and R40 for children on November 19 and 20, and R80 for adults on November 21.

We suggest that you plan your itinerary to kick off with the Military Tattoo and then take the family on a tour of our city’s nautical history:

  • Visit the Hout Bay Museum for a closer look at this town’s history.
  • Visit The Naval Museum in Simon’s Town – a town that, for nearly 150 years, was the South Atlantic base for the Royal Navy and only came under South African control in 1957! This museum gives visitors a wonderful introduction to our maritime history and even includes a replica of a Second World War pub.
  • Stop in at the Fish Hoek Valley Museum for a history lesson on the ancient burial sites discovered in the area by Victor Peers in 1927. The excavation site later became known as Peers’ Cave and is surrounded by San rock paintings. The oldest specimen found at the burial site, The Fish Hoek Man, is at least 12 000 years old!
  • A number of national monuments are to be found in Muizenberg, including the Rhodes Cottage Museum, Natalie Labia Museum, Edwardian Muizenberg Station and Het Post Huijs. Het Post Huijs has the distinction of being the oldest inhabited European house in the country – it was built in 1673 and used as a signal station, house and fort under the rule of the Dutch East India Company, or VOC.
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