As Zizi, recently discovered when she participated on an AWOL City cycle tour that departs daily from the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town has a rich tapestry of diverse cultures and historical stories that our guides love to share with visitors. Cycling is a great way for visitors and locals to gain insight into the history of Cape Town.
The Bo-Kaap is a small Muslim community situated on the slopes of signal hill. It was formally known as the Malay quarter, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the rows of brightly coloured houses; many members of this community are descendants of slaves bought by Dutch in the 16th and 17th century.
It is amazing how people migrated from different parts of the world such as India, Africa, Asia, Scotland and Malaysia live in this close knit community. The dominant language spoken here is Afrikaans, a language adopted from Dutch. When cycling past the restaurants and small side street cafes the aroma of spices hangs in the air, and the Cape Malay meals are a delicious journey back in time. This area is unique in every sense of the word, from the language, the cuisine, the people and the beautiful homes.
Cycling through Cape Town down Wale Street towards the Company Gardens, we spot a statue of the watchful military leader Jan Smuts. He was born on 24 May 1870 on a farm in the Cape Colony. He was a nature lover, a philosopher, a military leader and a highly respected politician and became Prime minister of the Union of South Africa. Growing in a farm playing in the veld and herding livestock had an impact for his interest in nature. Quoted on one of his writings he wrote ‘Having no human companion, I felt a comradeship for the objects of nature around me.’ During their official visit in 1947, the King and Queen of England and their daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret took the cableway up Table Mountain, and were met at the top of the mountain by 77-year-old Prime Minister Jan Smuts, an avid hiker, who preferred to walk to the top. Smuts shared the cable car with the royal family for the return trip, arriving in time for a joint sitting of both houses of parliament. To this day one of his favourite routes is known as Smuts’ track.
We would love to know what Cape Town highlights would be your favourite? For more of these interesting historical stories of Cape Town, join in on one of our City Cycle tour departing from the V&A Waterfront at 10am daily.
Written by Zizipho Silwana