Day 6: Cape Town and Table Mountain - Fri 29 Jan 2016

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January 29th 2016
Published: February 15th 2016
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Up at 6.30 am and on the coach by 7.45 am after a good breakfast. First stop today - Table Mountain. We passed Signal Hill in the background. Signal Hill stands 360 meters above sea level. It was used to signal weather warnings.

We passed a statue of Bartolomeu Dias who didn’t manage to land at Cape Point due to the weather. Looking out to sea we drove past Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned until 1994. There wasn’t time for us to visit the island, because it requires an hour's boat ride each way in addition to the time spent in the prison museum, so that would kill nearly half a day in our tour.

Amos explained the flora as we drove around the city. In particular he pointed out the fever tree which was originally thought to be the cause of malaria. He also gave some more South Africa and Cape Town area background information.

The flag of South Africa, adopted in 1994, is the only country flag to contain six colours:

* Black representing the black population;

* White representing the two nations Afrikaans and Britain;

* Blue representing the sky,

* Green the fields,

* Gold the sun. and

* Red the bloodshed.


Arriving at the entry to the mountain we lined up for tickets for the cable car. This has the unique feature that the cab rotates while it ascends or descends, so that everyone inside can have a look around the landscape. For me, this posed a potential problem of dizziness and I strove to keep my eyes fixed where the effect would be minimised.

We were extremely lucky with the weather - the sun was shining and the wind was not blowing. We went to the top and saw the spectacular views of the Cape peninsula down to the Cape of Good Hope. Looking down from the top of Table Mountain we could see the waves crashing against the rocks. We could see the point where the warm-water current called Agulhas from the Indian Ocean meets the cold-water current called Benguela from the Atlantic ocean. We also saw various wildlife living amongst the rocks - particularly the dassies (the rock hyrax or rock badger). We saw mothers and babies scurrying across the rocks. Also we saw lizards and geckos.

We walked one circuit most of the way around the top of Table Mountain. Then we took the cable car back down, again trying to avoid dizziness as the cab turned and the floor moved.


Just time for shopping for a thimble and then to the car park and back onto the coach. Our next port of call was the Jewish Museum. The first two Jews arrived in Cape Town in 1652 but they connected to the Dutch Reform Church.

The South Africa Jewish Museum is housed within the 'old synagogue' building that was built in 1863. It is within the overall complex containing the current Great Synagogue (aka the Gardens Shul or the 'new synagogue') and the Jewish Museum. Security is relatively tight to obtain entry, but of course Amos had that sorted easily for our Israeli group. The Jewish Museum aims to depict the ethos and rituals of Judaism, as well as showing the origins of the various constituencies - primarily Lithuania, who collectively formed the Jewish community in South Africa.

The Jewish community formally known as the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation, and now called the Gardens Shul, was established in 1841. Currently in 2016 they will be celebrating their 175th anniversary.

The old synagogue was designed by a non-Jewish architect as Jews were not allowed to be architects. The synagogue is designed along the lines of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was built by the British and had a very formal style.

In 1905 the first Jewish mayor was Hyman Lieberman. A very prominent Jew was Barney Barnatto who together with John Cecil Rhodes formed the company De Beers, the diamond company.

1905 is also when the new synagogue building was consecrated. This large structure seats about 1500 people. The stained glass windows were installed three years ago - the wife of a community member died and her husband designed and made the windows. They represent the chagim (Jewish holidays).

We were lucky to see the inside of the Gardens Shul, considering that it was Friday and not officially open before the Sabbath evening services. Again it was Amos who convinced one of the gabbaim (lay ritual leaders) to open it up and speak to us. We had a good look around at the very attractive interior, and heard first-hand about the local Jewish community.


The Gardens Shul wanted us out so they could get ready for Shabbat so we got back on the coach and went back through the city. We saw the statue of Jan Smuts in front of the Parliament building.


We drove around some of the sights of Cape Town including the South African Airways building with mosaic windows.


The coach continued winding through the streets in the central Cape Town area, toward our next destination which was the South Africa Museum. Having just come from the Jewish Museum, we were at first shocked to see a Palestinian rally. This was probably organised by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement with the false theme of 'Apartheid' in Israel. That is completely disingenuous as Israel integrates all races, religions, sexual preferences, etc unlike South Africa during its apartheid era which generated global anti-apartheid sanctions. Our negative surprise turned to mild amusement as we noted that the couple of 'Palestine Authority' flags were greatly outflanked by Israeli flags with numerous counter-protest supporters.


We visited the South Africa Museum in an old colonial house, an appropriate and interesting setting. This exhibited background histories of the various indigenous peoples and the foreign settlers who arrived into the land over the centuries.


A majority of our group wanted to see the Cape Town waterfront area, called the V&A Waterfront. Silly us ex-Brits, we figured it meant Victoria & Albert, and were amused to see signs saying "Victoria & Alfred Waterfront" instead. Alfred? It transpires that Queen Victoria's second son Prince Alfred began construction of the Cape Town harbour in 1860. Thus the waterfront is named for him and not Victoria's beloved husband Albert. The V&A primarily contains numerous shopping and food outlets like the San Francisco pier area and similar revitalised waterfronts in other major cities. This was the first big shopping opportunity for which several of the group had been pining. Don and I preferred to retire to the hotel sooner, take a break and prepare for Shabbat.


At 6.30 pm we lit candles in the hotel and those who wanted to went to synagogue across the road from the hotel, the Marais Road synagogue. There was a choir which was dominant and seemed to be performing a show rather than leading a religious service.


After the service back to the hotel for a Shabbat meal provided by the local kosher caterer. A very enjoyable Friday night meal. Given all the shlepping around from the hours before our flight to South Africa and a full week of early-morning starts ever since, we were really looking forward to the Shabbat break. We were grateful for a quiet night of chatting, reading and soon sleeping.


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23rd February 2016

Very informative
Very informative blog. I did not know the bit about South African flag, interesting. I am hoping to make a trip to Cape Town in May if all stars align.

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