You don’t need an ironic T-shirt to walk on the wonderful Cape Town side

By philip
23 January 2013

“I’m not sure if it’s my imagination or not, but it feels as though Cape Town is having a bumper tourist season during the December holidays”, reports Tony Weaver of the Cape Times

Be a tourist in your own city, walk the streets, eat the food, absorb the culture and the vibe – you won’t be sorry”

Traffic jams on the N2 after 9am, with only every third car having a CA number plate. The streets of the CBD jammed with scantily dressed foreign tourists in holiday mode. Every eatery around our offices (and there are plenty of those) packed out.

Damn, it really makes me want to be on holiday, to be a tourist in my own city. I took a walk around town at lunch time yesterday, mainly to go and find a sandwich, but also just to mingle with the crowds and look at Cape Town through foreign eyes. It was swelteringly, almost oppressively hot out there. Our air conditioning in our building was barely coping, and our technical guys told me that the air being sucked in from outside had an ambient temperature of 40ºC.

When I walked out into St George’s Mall, it was like being hit in the face with a blast from a hair dryer set on high. Nonetheless, the streets were buzzing.

The bottom floor of our headquarters, Newspaper House, has been taken over by Food Lover’s Market, and their coffee shop, sushi bar and deli were packed. Out on the streets, the weekly organic food market, where you can buy anything from a prawn paella to tuna biltong to organic veggies was in full swing, elbow room only.

There was music everywhere – a blind woman with a sign around her neck that read “blind woman” was singing soulful gospel. On the next street corner was an old regular, the blind guitarist. The wandering trio who play penny whistle, guitar and djembe drum were serenading the al fresco diners at Crush with an upbeat version of Solomon Linda’s Mbube (Wimoweh).

Around the corner a saxophonist was playing a damn fine version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s Manenberg, a rendition of which the late Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee would have been proud. From an upstairs balcony, the strains of a classical violinist drifted down, some cool jazz oozed from another doorway.

Up Longmarket Street, a bunch of very red-faced and sweaty tourists were getting djembe drumming lessons from Ebrahim and Abdul-Aziz from Niger (we exchange greetings every morning) and Eddie from Zanzibar shouted “jambo bwana Tony, habari gani” across the street to me.

But what really struck me was the way everything just flowed together almost effortlessly, that the slogan, “This city works for you”, is totally true: on Greenmarket Square, an army of street cleaners moved tirelessly from side to side; on almost every corner there were a couple of Central City Improvement District security guards; earlier in Loop Street I had driven past a patrol of SA Police Service officers on horse back; and there was absolutely no sense of anything other than a seamless, well run, almost organic effortlessness to the way it all just, well, worked.

There’s an energetic bustle about it all. The MyCiTi buses run like clockwork and they are gratifyingly well used. On Wednesday morning, I drove in from Montague Gardens along the Milnerton beach front, and the new cycle path was full of joggers and cyclists.

If you haven’t been into the CBD in a while, do yourself a favour: be a tourist in your own city, walk the streets, eat the food, absorb the culture and the vibe – you won’t be sorry. We live in one of the most extraordinary cities in the world, and I feel enormously privileged that I work in it’s heart.

Written by Tony Weaver and originally published in the Cape Times (14 december 2012). used with permission.

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