Did You Know?

The Sacred Circle – The pioneers of Islam in the Cape were political
prisoners and slaves brought from the East during the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. Most had been exiled for leading their nations’
resistance to colonialism. In 1694, for example, Sheikh Joseph was banished
to the Cape by the Dutch after the conquest of Java and Sumatra. Because
of the lives and works of these religious leaders, and the siting of their
kramats (tombs), Muslims have come to regard Cape Town as a holy place.
Sheik Joseph’s resting place is one of a number of kramats that form a
sacred circle around the city. The road between Lion’s Head and Signal
Hill runs past the domed kramat of Mohamed Gasan Gaibie Shah, while
the kramats of Sayed Abdul Haq and ten others are found in the Deer
Park, a common place of refuge for Muslims during colonial times. Another
kramat is that of Sayed Abdul Malik, a doctor and spiritualist who came
to the Cape at the end of the eighteenth century as a slave from Batavia.
Cannons – In former years, a small cannon was fired from the summit of
Lion’s Head, signalling the approach of ships in Table Bay. This was relayed
to the interior by cannons mounted at other vantage points, summoning
distant farmers to the city with provisions for trade, or to defend the
harbour against attack.
Noonday Gun – The South African Navy fires Signal Hill’s Noonday Gun
at 12a.m. every day but Sunday. The famous Lion’s Battery on the slopes
of this 335m hill overlooking Table Bay is also used to fire salutes for visiting
ships and on ceremonial occasions.
A Missing Link – The Wynberg caves are the only place on earth where
the missing link between worms and insects occurs. The velvet worm
peripatus is regarded as the evolutionary link between segmented worms
like earthworms and arthropods, such as millipedes.
The Tablecloth – Devil’s Peak got its name from a legend concerning a
Dutch pirate named Van Hunks, who is said to have spent his days smoking
his pipe where the saddle of land connects Devil’s Peak to Table Mountain.
One day, he challenged the Devil to a smoking contest, with the condition
that if he won he could reclaim his previously forfeited soul. So much
smoke was generated by the contest that the “tablecloth” formed over
the mountain.
The Guardian of the South – From various myths and legends, the
Portuguese poet, Luis Vas de Camoes, (1524-1580), developed the character
“Adamastor” – the monstrous Guardian of the South who was said to
have been vanquished by the Portuguese explorers after they had rounded
the Cape of Good Hope. The Peninsula was portrayed as the supine form
of Adamastor after his death. In Xhosa legend, Djobela – the Earth Goddess
– turned mighty giants, placed in the four corners of the earth, into
mountains to guard the world. The greatest giant of them all – Umlindi
Welingizunu – was Table Mountain, the Watcher of the South.
Constellation – Table Mountain is the only geographical feature in the
world that has a constellation named after it – the Mensa (“table” in Latin).

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