Considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its scenic backdrop of Table Mountain, the Mother City is South Africas oldest settlement.
Situated along the Cape Peninsula, its rich cultural mix of the European and African world is reflected in its people and diverse architecture. European Explorers had sailed around the Cape for many years but it wasnt until the mid-17th century that the Dutch landed and started a settlement. At this time the San Bushmen and the Hottentot tribes were still in sole occupation of the area. Their ancestors had lived in the Peninsula for thousands of years.
In 1652 the Dutch East India Company established a post at Table Bay, to grow crops, barter with the Hottentot and repair ships. Van Riebeeck the governor established the first vineyard in South Africa here in 1658. The region is now world famous for its wines.
The Dutch East India Company once the worlds greatest trade corporation, began to decline in the 18th century because of English and French competition. During the war between Britain and Holland (1780-1783) a British fleet sailed to invade the Cape, but was attacked and disabled by the French who assisted the Dutch to defend the colony. However in 1814 the Cape Colony was formally ceded to Britain after victory over the Dutch forces.
The British enacted the emancipation of the Capes slaves in 1834 and some 39,000 slaves, mostly in the western districts of the Colony, were granted their freedom. In 1872 the Cape Colony was granted complete self-government. With the building of railways and the opening of diamond mines, Cape Town grew in commercial importance and became one of the major ports of the continent.
The first half of the 20th century witnessed the growth of South Africa into a powerful industrial nation but Apartheid stunted the economic growth of the country. Today Cape Town is home to South Africas parliament and is a regional centre.
However apartheids legacy of segregation and social inequality continues. There is little evidence of black South Africa unless you stray to the black townships of the Cape Flats east of the city. The ghettos are your stark introduction to the city as you approach it from the airport.
While gang violence is generally restricted to the township areas, crime is still a problem in the central Cape Town. You should minimise the risk of crime by taking sensible precautions (e.g. dont get drawn into conversation at cash machines, be aware of your surroundings on the street).