Cape Town is both beautiful and unique because of the diversity of its people, landscape, and culture. All of which were on full display this weekend. It started off in the Muslim neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. Hidden behind tall buildings and the bustling city streets, you enter Bo-Kaap by climbing steep cobblestone streets. Somehow the area immediately becomes peaceful and quiet. The smell of Middle Eastern spices fill the air and minarets dot the landscape. In a few short steps I felt like I had landed in North Africa. However, the most astounding part of Bo-Kaap was its architecture and sense of community. On some streets, each house was painted in its own individual way, which made the streets a stunning mix of bright colors. And in start contrast to most neighborhoods of Cape Town, barbed wire and security signs exclaiming “armed response” were hardly present. Instead, children and and neighbors were constantly interacting, which was a nice departure from the leeriness that often pervades my neighborhood.
Friday night brought about a mix of European club culture and South African pop culture. My friends and I saw the electronic duo Goldfish perform. Goldfish is a mix of jazz, funk, and house that blurs the line between DJs and a live band. It is not often a turntable and double bass are present on the same stage. While the group itself was pretty good, the club at which we saw them, Trinity, certainly enhanced the night. Based off UK “super clubs,” Trinity rises seven stories with each floor having its own unique characteristics. A central staircase connects the club and leads to the feeling that it is a jungle gym for young people.
On Saturday morning we headed over to a farmer’s market called Old Biscuit Mill. It is a mix between Washington, DC’s Eastern Market and New York’s Chelsea Market. Thus, it is pretty pretentious. Regardless, an incredible array of food is available from all over the world, with all of it being delicious. Uncommon stores also surround the outdoor market and the entire atmosphere is simply very happy.
From there we went to Clifton beach. While the rest of Cape Town rivals Chicago for most amount of wind, this beach is protected by cliffs and mountains. Clifton is also separated by massive rocks into four sections. Each one has a distinct culture. My friends and I primarily go to Clifton Two, which is where the topless models tend to tan. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on our reasoning for choosing Two.
Sunday brought another day of experiencing completely different cultures. In the morning we headed to Mzoli’s, which is a braai (barbeque) in the township of Gugulethu. Like all townships in South Africa, Gugulethu is incredibly poor. Yet, in the middle of the township rises a massive party. On Sundays, people from all walks of life descend on the township for the braai, which easily has the best meat I have ever tasted. Moreover, everyone is drinking and dancing to African house music. Needless to say, the mood is incredibly festive. In a country that is still very segregated, it is invigorating to see such a mixed crowd attend Mzoli’s.
That night we went to a posh nightclub called St. Yves. It overlooks the ocean and has a South Beach/Miami feel to it. It was interesting to see the contrast in cultures and demographics between Mzoli’s and St. Yves. The latter certainly lacked the populist appeal that the former has mastered.
Human Rights Day was on Monday and we had off from school. A few of us hiked to the top of Lion’s Head mountain, which gives a stunning 360 degree view of Cape Town. Mountains such as Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles are in full view as are frequented areas such as Clifton Beach. The panorama gave me an unbelievable appreciation for the city and capped an amazing weekend full of varied activities that few other areas of the world provide.s