Cape Town’s Mish-Mash of Cultures and Ethnic Groups Blend and Make a Unique City

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Cape Town is a mish-mash of many cultures and ethnic groups which came about with the arrival of Jan van Riebeek, sent out by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 to start a halfway station to provide provisions for the replenishment of passing ships.

A fort and shelters were quickly erected and vegetable gardens and orchards were established. Meat was bartered for from the local tribes. Nearby forests provided timber to the ships and used to build houses. Fresh water was channeled down from Table Mountain.

This all came about with Vasco Da Gama’s discovery of Table Bay in 1497, while searching for a route between Europe and the East. Ten years before though, Bartholomeus Dias raced past the Cape of Good Hope unknowingly, in a hurry to get home after spending many months at sea, searching for a route to the East, as well.


  • The Dutch arrived in 1652 and settled.
  • Asian immigrants arrived in 1654 and helped form the Cape Coloured and Cape Malay populations.
  • Slaves were brought in from Java and Madagascar to work on farms, in 1658.
  • The first non-Dutch immigrants, the Huguenots fled France and took up the promise of free passage and farmland by the Dutch East India Company, in 1688. They brought valuable experience in wine making.
  • The British came to protect and then later occupied the Cape in 1795. English became the official language during that time.

The Khoisan, the inhabitants who traded, fought, bartered and married the immigrants

But let us not forget about the inhabitants that were here already.

  • The Khoisan – better known as the Bushman and the Hottentots migrated southwards first to meet up with the Europeans. The Bantu-speaking people followed later.
  • The Hottentots eventually inter-married with the slaves and others. Sadly they lost their distinct cultural group.
  • They all traded, fought, bartered and married. Hence, the blend of people have individualized and provided an eclectic culture and traditions unique only to Cape Town.
  • These early colonists, the Dutch, French, British and also the Malay slaves greatly influenced the architecture of the city.
  • The historic buildings are still used today, mostly as museums, monuments and galleries but can be viewed during the historical walking tours provided by the V&A Waterfront.
  • Of these historic buildings, there are those around the harbour. Construction of two harbour basins took place between 1860 and 1920. They were named after Queen Victoria and her son HRH Albert.

Unfortunately construction of freeways along the Foreshore separated Cape Town from the port and the public were denied access to the waters edge.

But thanks to the lobbying of the mayor at the time, links between the city and sea were re-established. The V & A Waterfront project was named after Queen Victoria and HRH Albert.

The V&A Waterfront makes historic docklands a mixed use area for retail, tourism and apartments within a working harbour

The V&A Waterfront was opened at the end of 1990, which re-united Cape Town with its proud maritime heritage and at the same time, provided a top tourism destination.

The V&A Waterfront Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0)21 408 7791 Tel: +27 (0)21 408 7791

If by reading this blog has given you the strong desire to visit Cape Town – enjoy the varied cultural infused cuisines, the wine farms, the beauty and the fascinating history, then be assured of the finest accommodation at Sun Internationals, Table Bay hotel which has one of the best addresses in Cape Town.

The Table Bay Hotel is situated at the V& A Waterfront and has beautiful views of the harbour, Table Mountain or Robben Island depending on which side you are facing. The Table Bay Hotel is perfectly located at the waterfront and provides and easy access to some of the most famous attractions. The Table Bay Hotel was opened in 1997 by Madiba, South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela.

For bookings, please contact Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0) 11 780 7810