Cape Town is a city of diverse cultures, languages and stories and as such, the city perched at the bottom of the African continent has been known by a variety of different names, officially and unofficialy . In Afrikaans we call it Kaapstad, the Xhosa refer to it as iKapa and the Sotho as Motse Kapa.
The first occupants of the Cape, the Khoekhoen knew Cape Town as Camissa, the place of sweet water; this tribe of Khoi-San used to come down to the Cape from the arid West Coast region during the summer months to find water for their livestock and relax in the shade of the mountain they called Hoerikwaggo- the mountain in the sea.
Our first European visitors , the Portuguese, originally referred to the Cape as Cabo Tormentoso – the Cape of storms due to the severity of storms pushed up to the Cape from the roaring forties. Later it was changed to Cabo da Boa Esperança – the Cape of Good Hope.
Another interesting name the Cape was known by was Tavern of the Seas” or as the Dutch called it- ‘Taverne van De Zeeen’. This was in reference to, not only the replenishment station established for weary sailors on their way to the Far East , but also due to the fact that the first private business outside the old Fort’s walls was a pub. Interestingly, this establishment was ran by the first gardener of the Cape, Hendrik Boom’s wife . The first tavern was quickly followed by another three taverns opening their doors, clearly the love of the fruits of the vine was something that was in the Cape from the beginning of time.
Another almost-forgotten nickname for Cape Town is “Cape Grab”, which Cape Town was known as because of certain innkeepers who charged very high rates for sailors looking for board and lodging. Probably a practice still around in certain waterfront areas….
A more commonly-used nickname for Cape Town, which is the oldest town in South Africa, is the “Mother City”, and the reasoning behind this takes a little more investigation to figure out. The Mother City is an affectionate nickname, which is widely known and used among locals and visitors to Cape Town alike. There are a number of suggested reasons why Cape Town is called the Mother City, and the most commonly offered explanation is as follows:
“In the 1930’s some unknown party wrote to the local Cape Town newspaper claiming that Cape Town was the only city in South Africa that could justly call itself a metropolis. The public took to this description and because the word metropolis is derived from the Greek derivation of meter or metros meaning mother and polis meaning city, the nickname of “Mother City” was born. Hence today we know our wonderful city as being the Mother City.”
Another (rather more candid) explanation that has been offered as to why Cape Town is called the “Mother City” is that it is “due to the highly expressive vocabulary of the local dialect (in which the words “your mother” features regularly.
The most recent name used for Cape Town is ‘ Slaapstad ‘ ( sleeping town). A reference to the fact that it apparently takes 9 months to get anything done in this sleepy hollow.
Cape Town is a thriving city in development and whatever name you would like to call it by, its definitely worth a visit. Join Cape Tourism solutions on one of their amazing Cape town private tours