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8 Things to Learn about Cape Town
Cape Town, a city in the Republic of South Africa, is the legislative capital of the country and the capital of the Western Cape province. It is called Kaapstad in Afrikaans and Ekapa in Xhosa. Considered one of the great scenic cities of the world, it is often called the "Mother City of South Africa" because of its historical background.
1. Cape Town lies at the foot of 3,549-foot (1,082-meter) Table Mountain on the shore of Table Bay. Because of Table Mountain and the other mountains in the area, the city has spread out along the coast, its western suburbs fronting on the Atlantic Ocean and the southern suburbs on the Indian Ocean. Starting in 1937 the reclamation of a large area, known as the Foreshore, from Table Bay provided hundreds of acres for the development of a new central city neighborhood.
2. Under apartheid, separate townships were established in outlying areas, such as Cape Flats, for Coloured and black residents. In 2000 the city was merged with five neighboring municipalities to form the new "unicity" of Cape Town.
3. Gold, diamonds, fruit, and wine are exported, but Cape Town's importance as a port declined under the international sanctions of the late apartheid era. In the 1990s part of the dock area was redeveloped as a commercial and tourist center. Food processing and the manufacture of clothing and shoes are the city's main industries. Other manufactures include motor vehicles, chemicals, plastics, and fertilizer. Printing, engineering. and oil refining also are important.
4. Cape Town has become a famous holiday resort. It is an attractive city with a magnificent setting and has miles of inviting shoreline. As a winter resort it draws people from all over southern Africa. A tourist attraction is the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, which enables visitors to reach the top of Table Mountain, whose sheer precipice forms the backdrop for the city. The National Botanic Garden is located in suburban Kirstenbosch. A national park and nature reserve are nearby.
5. Cape Town is also a cultural center. There are carefully preserved examples of the Dutch colonial style of architecture, including early homesteads, with their characteristic, gracefully curved gables and thatched roofs. The South African Museum, the oldest in the country, has exhibits on natural and social history. The "Slave Lodge," built in 1679 to house people enslaved by the Dutch East India Company, houses a cultural history museum, which includes an ancient Egyptian collection. Robben Island, the apartheid-era prison in Table Bay where Nelson Mandela was once detained, now attracts many tourists.
6. Among the interesting structures of the city are the Houses of Parliament and the Castle. The original Parliament building was completed in 1886 and has been enlarged several times since then. The Castle, begun in 1666, has served as a fortress, a residence for the governor, the seat of the government and the courts, and a museum.
7. Cape Town is also an education center. The University of Cape Town is in the city. Stellenbosch University and numerous other educational institutions are located in the area.
8. Cape Town was founded on April 6, 1652, by Jan van Riebeeck as a supply station for the Dutch East India Company. It became the center of the colony that developed. It later served as the capital of the Cape province and since 1994 of the Western Cape province. The city was made the legislative capital of the Union of South Africa when it was formed in 1910, and the Parliament of the republic continues to meet there.