Gugulethu – Xhosa for “our pride” – is a colourful, vibrant and lively township on the outskirts of the city. A visit to the township is an unforgettable experience and a stark reminder of how life need not be all five-star luxury to be friendly, welcoming, and real.
Originally named Nyanga West, “Gugs”, as Gugulethu is often called, was established in the 60s to help accommodate the many migrant workers who moved to Cape Town from the rural Transkei region in the Eastern Cape. It is 20km from the centre of Cape Town. The roads in Gugs were originally named and numbered with the prefix NY which stood for “Native Yard”. The City of Cape Town began renaming the streets, beginning with the main route, Steve Biko Drive (formerly known as NY1). Others are Albert Luthuli, Amy Biehl, Ray Alexander and Gugulethu Seven (the group which was fatally ambushed by security police in Gugulethu in 1986).
The Amy Foundation, named for anti-apartheid activist Amy Biehl, is an NGO that provides children and youth programmes. Experience their projects in action before visiting Amy’s Bistro, a student restaurant and great place for coffee.
The community has embraced the tourism industry, and as such there is no shortage of restaurants, jazz clubs and B&Bs. Perhaps the most famous venue in Gugulethu is Mzoli’s Place, a popular gathering spot for Cape Town residents and a major tourist attraction. Numerous celebrities have visited, including Jamie Oliver, who was apparently very interested in the ingredients of the basting sauce, but they are a closely guarded secret.
Enter through the butchery where you select your meat – huge steaks, chops, sausage, and chicken – and accompaniments. Find a seat at a communal table while the cooks grill your food to perfection over open fires. While you can buy wine, it’s not a bad idea to take your own drinks (or buy from a shebeen across the road), as well as glasses, crockery and cutlery. Packing your own roll of toilet paper is also wise.
Mzoli’s is a great vibe and on weekends it’s one big party where everyone puts on their finest bling, and DJs play kwaito and house music which competes with the sounds blaring from customers’ cars parked outside. Bookings for large groups are essential.
The township is best visited as part of a guided tour for taking in all the sights and sounds. Most tours take visitors past the Gugulethu Seven Monument, built to commemorate the death of seven young black activists during the dark days of apartheid. The Cape Town Jazz Safari, run by Coffeebeans Routes, which takes place in the evenings is a wonderful way to experience Gugs. This musical history tour will allow you to experience the very local tradition of jazz while enjoying a drink at one of the township’s many shebeens. You could also take a 40-minute guided walk through the houses (mostly built of roof sheeting) to experience the everyday life of the people. Ask us about the best guided tour options by calling +27(0)86 132 223.
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