The Mother City’s Diversity

By Melanie McDowell

Cape Town with a population of over 4 million people has a cosmopolitan cultural mix which has been influenced over the years by the Dutch, French and British along with a significant influence coming from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Originally established as a refreshment station by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600’s it acted as a temporary resting place for European ships travelling on the Spice Route, making Cape Town the oldest city in South Africa.

Seen as the gateway to Southern Africa, the Cape of Good Hope now known as Cape Town saw thousands of settlers disembark and make the arduous journey up country. Today Cape Town is still a popular destination which attracts many foreigners to its shores for work, study and play. Historically Cape Town has been called home by all sorts of nationalities from Indian and Malay slaves brought in by the Dutch to the French Huguenots who arrived, escaping religious persecution; this historic background may be one of the reasons why locals are so accepting of welcoming foreigners into the fold.

A city of contrasts, Cape Town is the only city where you will find the heart of the business and financial district nestled snugly between Table Mountain a World Heritage Site and the cold Atlantic Ocean. Taking a walk through the streets you’ll find many restaurants offering traditional African flair along with an eclectic mix of Italian, French, Mexican and Asian restaurants. The city hosts various multinational festivals from the traditional German Octoberfest, to the French inspired Bastille Day as well as the uniquely local Cape Minstrel Carnival, all of which we highlight on our monthly Connect-123 events calendar.

The Cape Minstrel Carnival happens annually on January 2nd and is celebrated as the “Second New Year” which was a resting day originally given to the slave community during the early settlement years. Today the carnival attracts thousands of musical troupes from around the Western Cape and offers a platform for them to strut their stuff in a vibrant display of music and bright sequined costumes.

The city centre itself has always been quite liberal, even during the Apartheid regime, the city was home to many underground clubs and theatres that refused to exclude citizens due to the colour of their skin, nationality, sexual orientation or religion. To this day, Cape Town is still well known for fostering the creative industries and promoting freedom of expression and subsequently boasts a vast array of theatres, art galleries, dance companies and craft markets.

With new visitors arriving every day fresh off the proverbial boat, most Capetonians relish the opportunity to show newcomers the best that Cape Town has to offer. It’s not hard to see why Connect-123 has one of its programs based in Cape Town as we are as excited as the locals here to showcase the city which you’ll surely be calling home during your internship.

Melanie McDowell

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