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EASTERN CAPE - NELSON MANDELA

South Africa's Eastern Cape is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and interesting regions on planet Earth.

The Eastern Cape's biodiversity is unmatched in Southern-Africa. There are 5 biogeographic regions in the Eastern Cape , spanning from the semi-desert Karoo in the interior to the lush green forests of the Garden Route .

For the sunseekers, the Wild Coast and the Sunshine Coast has some of the world's best beaches. This area is also known all over the globe for its surfing waves. Jeffreys Bay is famous for Supertubes, one of the best right break waves in the world and Seal Point, one of the best places to take surfing photos, is near Cape St. Francis.

The Eastern Cape offers visitors a wealth of fauna and flora, including the big 5 - Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and African Buffalo. At the Addo Elephant Park and the Mountain Zebra National Park you can enjoy some of the natural wonders of the Eastern Cape. If you want luxury, the Eastern Cape has some of the best Game Reserves not just in Africa, but in the world. Shamwari and Kwandwe specifically spring to mind.

The Eastern Cape also has South Africa's only ski resort, Tiffindell , which is situated in the Drakensberg on the slopes of Ben McDhui, the highest mountain peak in the Cape.

Port Elizabeth, the largest city in the Eastern Cape, provides the economic heartbeat of the Eastern Cape. It has an airport with flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town, shopping centres, very good private hospitals, car rentals and anything else you might expect from a big city.

History of the Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape has a rich cultural history. Now most famous as the home of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela, the Eastern Cape border region was not always a place of peace. It is here that the Xhosas, Afrikaners & English met for the first time. At the time of white settlement of the Cape, Xhosa groups were living far inland, into the area between Bushman's River and the Kei River. Since around 1770, they had been confronted with the Afrikaner Trek Boers who approached from the west. Both the Boers and the Xhosa were stock-farmers.

The competition for grazing land led first to quarrels between the two groups, and eventually it came to a number of wars known as the grensoorlöe ("border wars" in Afrikaans). The politics of the colonial government attempted to enforce the separation of white and black settlement areas with the Fish River as the border. But the more the colony developed into a modern state with a strong military organization, the more the whites tended towards a policy of land annexing and the subjugation of the black population. In the middle of the 19th century, all the land formerly inhabited by Xhosa was in the hands of white settlers. With the founding of the South African Union in 1910, the British colony and the independent Boer Republics were united. A modern "democratic" state was formed. in which only the white population could execute the right to vote.

You will still find evidence of these violent times in this area. There are several buildings still standing where the Afrikaners and English sheltered from fierce Xhosa onslaughts. You will also note that most old houses in the Eastern Cape have small windows and thick walls to protect against unexpected attacks.

Although today the Eastern Cape is well known as the home of the Xhosa people, they weren't the only or indeed the first people in the Eastern Cape. The Bushmen (or San) thrived in the Eastern Cape before the Nguni tribes moved South from the North-East of Africa. Visitors can still find San rock art all over the Eastern Cape , but there are some very good sights near Barkly-East in the North-Eastern part of the Eastern Cape.

For more information about the Eastern Cape visit the website here:
www.eastern-cape.com

Nelson Mandela

The Eastern Cape is the home and birthplace of one of South Africa's brightest sons. Nelson Mandela was born at Mvezo in the Eastern Cape . His umbilical cord is still burried in the area in line with Xhosa tradition. When Rolihlahla's (Nelson Mandela's tribal name) father was deposed by an English magistate the Mandela family moved to Qunu.

Qunu is where Nelson Mandela has acknowledged he spent the happiest years of his youth, diligently doing his herd-boy duties, playing in the river and sailing down the "Sliding Stone". When Nelson's father was persecuted and deposed as Mvezo chief by the white magistrate their family took refuge at Qunu. It is the place where the young Rolihlahla in colonial tradition was named Nelson on his first day at school.

Today Qunu is a cluster of villages surrounded by open veld and rolling hills. The hills and valleys are covered with lush green grass and dotted with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats. A cock crow wakes up the community and at sunset the herdsmen bring the cattle to the Qunu river to drink, where the young Nelson enjoyed swimming and enriching his imagination with the games played at the riverbank. Qunu is still the home of Nelson Mandela.

For more information about the Nelson Mandela visit his museum website here:
www.nelsonmandelamuseum.org.za/

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