I recently had the good fortune of being in South Africa and was once again amazed by the sheer beauty and diversity this country has to offer. In many ways South Africa is very similar to the U.S. The cities here are modern, offering all the amenities you would expect anywhere in the States. It has a thriving business community that helps fuel its powerful economy, nearly everybody speaks English, and for the most part life moves along just as it does over here. It is always a comfortable feeling to have so many familiar aspects of life around while in South Africa.
Though there are many similarities, South Africa, like every other country on this continent, is first and foremost African. That is what makes South Africa so exciting. While I was in South Africa, I ended up spending most of my time in Cape Town. What an extraordinary city! Having been raised here, I am always happy to be back and I personally think this is one of best cities on the planet. During my stay the weather was absolutely exquisite with no rain and an abundance of sunshine. The days were hot, usually over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (though in South Africa temperature is always measured in Celsius), while the nights were much cooler. Here it was still great beach weather and as a result the beaches were packed with locals and tourists alike. During this same time in Cape Town there were also a couple of very popular events taking place. One was the Two Oceans Marathon, which draws runners from all over the world and is ranked by many as the world’s most beautiful marathon. In the days leading up to the race I saw runners all over the city getting ready for the challenge. The second event was the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The jazz festival, which is now in its ninth year, draws many big names from the jazz world as well as thousands of fans and partygoers from across the country. Cape Town also hosts many other national and international events that take place throughout the year such as fashion shows, sailing events, the African Paragliding Championship, cricket tournaments, international cycling events, and the World Amateur Team Championship, which is amateur golf’s largest event. These are only a few examples of the kinds of events that are hosted in Cape Town and surrounding areas. This brings me to one of the main reasons I love Cape Town: there is always something to do here.
So you might be wondering what kind of uniquely African culture could possibly be present in Cape Town since it is such a metropolitan city? The answer is easy: it’s everywhere. The culture is infused with the many other cultures that have shaped Cape Town and South Africa. As a tourist, you will especially notice the African flavor coming to the forefront as you pass by typical African markets where craftsmen gather to sell and barter the carvings and trinkets they have made. You hear men and women playing their African drums to entice you to purchase one. All over town vendors call to you to come and visit their stands, eager for you to buy their wares. In many places groups roam around singing traditional South African songs in order to earn a living. And let’s not forget about the local townships where the traditional African culture is impossible to miss.
Another one of the things I personally love is the South African accent. We South Africans believe that our accent is very unique and the coolest of course. Also, the words used in South Africa are great. Cars stop at robots, not traffic lights. I might say “get my spanners out of the boot while I raise the bonnet and see if I can find the problem.” Of course what I am saying is “get my wrenches out of the trunk while I raise the hood to see if I can find the problem.” In South Africa I drive a bakkie instead of a pickup truck and I use the lift instead of the elevator. You will also hear some fascinating languages such as Xhosa, which uses clicking noises for the letters c, q and x and sounds very different from anything we are used to. Besides Xhosa, you will often hear a smattering of Afrikaans words that find their way into a sentence. Speaking of languages, South Africa as a country has 11 official languages.
For all the reasons I love Cape Town, I have not yet mentioned my favorite: the cuisine! If you enjoy good food and wine, then this is reason enough to visit South Africa’s Mother City. Situated on the coast, seafood is one of Cape Town’s specialties. The calamari, the sushi, the Line Fish, the Tiger Prawns, the mussels (and I could go on) will all bring you to your knees begging for more. My personal favorite, however, is the Cape Malay style of cooking, which is so prevalent here. Dishes include things like bobotie (a curried ground beef and egg custard dish), sosatie (kebabs marinated in a curry mixture) and bredie (slowly cooked stews rich in meat, tomatoes and spices). Cape Malay curry is known for combining sweet and savory flavors using sweet spices like cinnamon and ginger, dried fruit (especially dried apricots), and savory seasonings like garlic and onions, which are all stewed and served over rice. The wines in South Africa are rich, plentiful, and cultivated twenty minutes away at the vineyards in Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Robertson. There are daily wine tasting tours in the surrounding wine country that leave from Cape Town and are fabulous outings, especially for those of you who are wine connoisseurs (yes, even those such as myself who know little about wine have a great time). Regardless of the kinds of food that you like, Cape Town is a haven for fine dining.
What really tips the scale in South Africa’s favor is its people. They are friendly, very laid back about life, and are always a delight to be around. Compared to the fast pace we are used to here in the U.S., the “laid back” part can sometimes be a little frustrating. This is especially true in Cape Town where it seems that everything happens at a slightly slower pace. But if you allow yourself to relax and go with the flow that is uniquely African you will find that it becomes quite intoxicating.
It seems that nearly everybody that goes to South Africa, and particularly Cape Town, wishes they could live there, or at the very least, wants to visit again soon. It is always great to be in South Africa and especially in Cape Town.
This article was written by Lark Tours staff members. We reserve all rights to this article.