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Overview

Cape Town, South Africa's second largest city after Johannesburg, is home to over 3.75 million people. It is the provincial capital of the Western Cape and home to South Africa's Parliament. It has a Mediterranean climate and the city is famous for its harbor and Table Mountain, which forms a semi-circle around the central downtown area. The majority of the population lives in the numerous suburbs which extend eastward from Table Mountain. Cape Town is an extremely multicultural city: 42.4% of the population described themselves as Coloured (the South African term for mixed-race), 38.6% as Black African, 15.7% as White, and 1.4% as Indian or Asian. The primary languages spoken are English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa.

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History

Prior to European colonization, the Western Cape was inhabited by the pastoral and nomadic Khoe and San peoples. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the area as they sought trade routes to the Indian Ocean. The Dutch East India Company was the first to establish a permanent supply base, constructing a fortified trading fort in 1652. The settlement quickly expanded, growing to a population of several thousand Europeans and their slaves (many of which came from as far as India and Malaysia) by the early 1700s. In 1814, following a protracted war, the Dutch ceded control of the Western Cape to the British, beginning a long period of British colonial rule. The British outlawed slavery in 1834, which led to many Afrikaners (the Dutch-speaking settlers) to migrate further inland. By the 1860s and 70s the city was becoming more modern, with growing populations of Coloureds (mixed-race) and Malays (the Muslim community of mostly Indian origin), as well as the previously arrived Afrikaans and British.The Anglo-Boer Wars in the early 1900s largely left Cape Town unscathed, but contributed to economic and population growth. With unification and independence in 1909, political power in South Africa shifted from Cape Town the northern cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. However, Cape Town remained an important port and trade center. The shift to local rule (which was mostly conservative and Afrikaan) led to the rise of institutionalized prejudice against non-white populations. The period between the world wars saw the establishment of restricted areas for Black Africans which would later become townships. Institutionalized segregation, known as Apartheid, came into effect following the 1948 election of National Party. The years that followed saw increased discrimination against non-white populations, including limited voting rights and forced settlement in townships outside the city center. Resistance movements such as the ANC in the 1950s and 60s opposed Apartheid, but were violently opposed by the ruling National Party. Protests were made illegal and leaders such as Nelson Mandela were imprisoned. Further protests and resistance movements emerged in the 1970s and 80s which, together with international pressure, led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the democratization of the country in the early 1990s. Despite the end of legalized discrimination, vast inequalities still exist along racial, ethnic, social, and economic lines.


Documentary on life in the townships of Cape Town:


Attractions


Table Mountain
Stretching from Signal Hill to Cape Point, this 22,000 hectare park is a natural wonder, its range of environments including granite and sandstone mountains, giant boulder strewn beaches and shady forests. For the vast majority of visitors the main attraction is the 1086m-high mountain itself, the top of which can easily be accessed by the cableway , which runs every 10/20 minutes in high/low season.
The park is provides the venue for a host of adventure activities including hiking, abseiling, mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, bird and wildlife watching, snorkelling and diving.

District 6 Museum
This museum celebrates the once lively multiracial area that was destroyed during apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s, its 60,000 inhabitants forcibly removed. Inside the former Methodist Mission Church home interiors have been recreated, alongside photographs, recordings and testimonials, all of which build an evocative picture of a shattered but not entirely broken community.

Robben Island
Used as a prison from the early days of the Dutch settlers until 1996, this Unesco World Heritage site is preserved as a memorial to those such as Nelson Mandela who spent many years incarcerated here.

Cape of Good Hope
Commonly called Cape Point, this 7750-hectare section of Table Mountain National Park includes awesome scenery, fantastic walks, great birdwatching and often deserted beaches

Waterfront
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a great example of how to best redevelop a declining dock area into a tourist hot spot. The atmosphere is always buzzing and there’s plenty to do, including making a trip out to Robben Island. Although these wharves are too small for modern container vessels and tankers, the Victoria Basin is still used by tugs, harbor vessels of various kinds and fishing boats. In the Alfred Basin you’ll see ships under repair, and seals splashing around and lazing on the giant tires that line the docks.

Botanical Garden
Location and unique flora combine to make these 36-hectare botanical gardens among the most beautiful in the world. The main entrance at the Newlands end of the gardens is where you’ll find the information centre, an excellent souvenir shop and the conservatory
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/south-africa/cape-town/sights/parks-gardens/kirstenbosch-botanical-gardens#ixzz3XQoA5kkz
= 10 Reasons Cape Town is the Best City in the World:

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Links

Neighbourgoods Market
Weekly market held every Saturday with local foods, arts, and crafts.

Cape Town Hoods
A guide to each neighborhood in Cape Town, with information about shopping, restaurants, nightlife, and hotels.

Maps

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