About Cape Town

While the program includes some site visits, there will not be much free time for participants to tour. Participants have the option and are encouraged, if able to do so, to extend their stay in Cape Town either before or after the program. It will be summer time in Cape Town, which is a beautiful time of year with long days and warm evenings.

South Africa is a historically rich country that rests at the southern tip of Africa with immense natural beauty and a vast country made up of vibrant cities, wildlife reserves, mountainous regions and rural villages. It has a diverse population stretching across various races, religions, ethnicities and languages. Many people know of South Africa through the anti-apartheid struggle and perhaps one of the world’s most well-known personalities, the anti-apartheid struggle veteran and South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

A Nelson Mandela quote on a wall in Cape Town, South Africa: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Photo: Kent Lingeveldt. Artist: el Seed.

The city of Cape Town is known to South Africans as the Mother City and is both the capital of the Western Cape Province and the legislative capital of South Africa as Parliament is situated within the city centre precinct. It is South Africa’s oldest city and features on the shortlist of many tourism and travel forums must visit places.

As a settlement that was first founded as a colonial rest station for the Dutch East India Company on land that was unscrupulously remanded from the indigenous Koi San peoples, the history of the city is complex and multi-layered. Political prisoners and slaves from South Asia, the East Indies as well as the East African coast, the indigenous population and European settlers have left their mark on the urban landscape and its surroundings. The consequences of colonialism, enslavement, apartheid, cosmopolitanism and the post-apartheid constitutional dispensation have all contributed to a city with a painful past, a conflicted and dynamic present, rich cultural diversity and a vivacious atmosphere.

A wall painting in District Six commemorating the anti-apartheid struggle leaders Steve Biko, Zainunnisa “Cissie” Gool and Imam Abdullah Haron.

The history of Islam in the Cape has its roots in the colonial settlement and the first Muslims arrived in Cape Town in 1657. Going through a process of enslavement, incarceration and the banning of Islam, the history of Islam in the Cape is one of remarkable resilience and the ability of Muslims to construct a religious community that is both intrinsically Islamic and open to the pluralism of the city’s diverse population and culture.

The kramat of Shaykh Abdurahman Matebe Shah, the last of the Malaccan Sultans, who was exiled to the Cape.

The signs of this history are dotted around the landscape of the city which includes numerous shrines (kramats) of Muslim political exiles, Islamic scholars and Sufi shaykhs, mosques (the oldest being established in 1794), and entire neighbourhoods such as the Bo-Kaap or Malay Quarter (still in existence) and District Six (demolished by the apartheid regime). Whether it is the sound of the call to prayer (adhan) bellowing through the streets of the city, the melody and lyrics of Cape coloured music and song or the tastes of the unique Malay cuisine with strong South and East Asian influences the Muslim influence on the city is unmistakable.

Historically, there is much to view in Cape Town that will deepen one’s understanding of South African history and the experience of the apartheid period. The District Six museum offers an excellent curated exhibition on an area of the city that was racially mixed and included a significant Muslim population. The Bo-Kaap and Slave Lodge museums also provide an interesting account of the enslavement and history of people from South and East Asia. The Castle of Good Hope is one of the earliest buildings in South Africa and is a symbol of the Cape colonial settlement and a well preserved example of military architecture. Perhaps the most famous historical site is Robben Island (a short boat ride from Cape Town’s harbour) where Muslim political prisoners and non-white political prisoners were incarcerated (including Nelson Mandela).

The Noordhoek beach located on the Cape peninsula on the outskirts of the city.

Cradled by Table Mountain and surrounded by mountains, the sea and a unique ecological system, Cape Town is certainly an exceptionally beautiful place and the temperate weather particularly during summer time provides the visitor with a good opportunity of taking in the sights and atmosphere of the city. A cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, a boat ride to Robben Island, nature walks or hikes through the verdant fauna and protected nature and wildlife reserves, a day at the beach or sightseeing or day trips to the Cape’s wine farms and seaside villages all offer wonderful opportunities for leisure.

A koeksister is a traditional South African flavoured syrup or honey infused fried dough. The name derives from the Dutch word “koek”, which generally means a wheat flour confectionary. The frying of dough strips in this manner is of Malay/Indonesian origin, possibly with Indian influence.

Cape Town is arguably South Africa’s culinary capital. With hundreds if not thousands of restaurants and cafes offering up cuisine from all over the world for all types of budgets it is a foodie’s delight. There are also markets offering quality artisanal products, fresh produce and farm to table food items. The city also boasts a wide array of museums, art galleries, theatres, cinemas and concert halls showcasing both international offerings and local talent.

Bobotie is a sweet Malay curry mince dish set in an egg custard traditionally served on yellow rice.

Cape Town is South Africa’s premier tourist destination and it will not disappoint even the most discerning traveler.

Long Street; one of the city’s most loved and famous streets for a night out.

 

The V&A Waterfront precinct located on Cape Town’s harbor on the edge of the city. It is a picturesque working harbor with a large retail section containing shops, restaurants, cinemas and open spaces overlooking the ocean and Table Mountain.