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Cape Town City and Suburbs
Bo-Kaap District 6 Townships Harbour
Waterfront Robben Island Urban Planning Transport
Architecture Monuments    

One of the best known and most photographed areas of Cape Town, Bo-Kaap lies just above the city centre and is closely associated with traditional Islam and the Cape Malay community.

It was established around the mosque, built in 1792 and disguised as a warehouse. Soon there were several mosques and Islamic schools.

District 6
During the British era the 6th District of the city was developed principally by former slave owners to rent to artisans. Although the area was very poor and overcrowded, it was also the centre of culture for the working class.

Under the Apartheid Group Areas Act, however, it was declared a 'white area' and the population of 60,00 was systematically forced from their homes and re-settled on the Cape Flats.

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Carnival Culture

In South Africa the term 'township' referred to residential areas for non-white peoples. They became synonymous with a policy of control.

The first township established was Ndabeni at the turn of the twentieth century. It was designed to limit the spread of disease in Cape Town. Immigration continued and Ndabeni was superceded by Langa, a 'model' township with a superintendent and designed to be easily controlled by the authorities. Langa was the product of an urban planning policy of social control (see above). Nyanga and Guguletu followed in the 1950s. Township residents rebelled against apartheid in the 1960 Pass revolt.

In spite of 'influx controls' more and more people settled around Cape Town in shanty towns, the most famous of these being Crossroads which became an important site of struggle against the apartheid government in the 1980s.

In the mid-80s the government began work on Khayelitsha, but it was soon overwhelmed by enormous numbers of migrants as influx controls were removed. During the 1990s these areas were steadily developed.

Modern Township

During the Dutch era it was soon obvious that a safe harbour was needed for Cape Town - but early attempts to build one proved a failure (more..)

Finally, the Cape Town Municipality developed the Victoria and Albert basins in 1860 - where the modern Waterfront now stands.

In 1940 the Duncan Dock was developed as part of a huge land reclamation scheme which changed the character of the foreshore forever (see urban planning).

Between 1967 and 1975 Cape Town's harbour and ship-building industry enjoyed a short-lived boom resulting from the closure of the Suez Canal. In 1977 the Windsor Castle sailed from Cape Town for the last time as mailships became redundant with the growth of air travel. Her departure was regretted by many and marked the end of 120 years of passenger boats coming and going.

Moreover, during the 1970s & 1980s international sanctions discouraged use of the port. In the 1990s, however, the old harbour saw renewed success with the Waterfront development.

Cape Town Harbour

Urban Planning
The grid pattern of the town laid out in the early years of Dutch rule remains the basis of the modern city centre of Cape Town. But during the British era development schemes modernised the appearance of the city.

With the enormous population growth at the end of the Victorian era and during the twentieth century the city spread in a haphazard way.

American and British planning concepts were adopted, much influenced by prevailing attitudes favouring racial segregation. A large scheme to reclaim the foreshore radically altered the character of the city (more..)

Under apartheid racial division was enforced through 'influx controls' and dormitory suburbs. Nevertheless large shanty towns developed which the authorities tried unsuccessfully to clear away (see townships, below).

After the end of apartheid, suburbs began to mix and effective efforts were made to develop the shanty areas (more..). Tourism drove the growth of prestigious large complexes (more..)
The City Foreshore

During the British era (1795 - 1910) road and rail infrastructure was developed along the Peninsula and into the interior. A harbour was finally opened in 1860 (see below) and mail ships encouraged development of the postal service (more..)

This infrastructure allowed suburbs to develop and greatly aided the economy of Cape Town and the winelands (more...)

In the twentieth century the motor car began to dominate and extensive freeways were built on the mountain and foreshore (more...)

Early Wagon Transport

Cape Town's unique history brought together Europe, Asia and Africa. Although the Dutch style was strongly influential, elements of the East were also present in the design of older houses in the City and winelands.

The British introduced Georgian and Victorian styles, and Art Deco and modernistic styles have been added in the twentieth centuries.

The most distinctive style, however, remains the Cape Dutch which was revived in the 1890s by Cecil Rhodes and Sir Herbert Baker and remains a popular style.

Drawing of Groote Schuur

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