Originally known as ‘Shaka Day’ celebrated by the Zulu people, the 24th of September evolved into Heritage Day, an official public holiday that recognises the rich cultural heritage of the entire country. With 11 official languages, South Africa is a land of many cultures, extraordinary nature and diverse landscapes. There’s a good reason why South Africa is often referred to as a ‘world in one country’ – and this amazing heritage is one of the top reasons why it endures as a major tourist destination.
Cape Town, situated on a striking southern-most peninsula of the African continent, is a global city offering visitors a sophisticated and authentic experience of the best that South Africa has to offer. Home to a rich history, a rare floral kingdom and Table Mountain, one of the 7 New Natural Wonders of the World, Cape Town, the Mother City, might well be the best place to be part of Heritage Day.
WHAT TO DO ON HERITAGE DAY?
For a visitor to Cape Town, Heritage Day is a wonderful opportunity to dive into the history and culture of South Africa. A great starting point is the highly popular V&A Waterfront where many locals will gather to enjoy the holiday. It is springtime, and the restaurants, cafés and bars spilling outdoors will be buzzing. However, for the tourist who wants to delve a little deeper into culture and history, this is how Heritage Day can be celebrated:
1. SPARKLE AT THE CAPE TOWN DIAMOND MUSEUM
South Africa has one of richest diamond heritages in the world. In the late 1800’s it was the greatest producer of diamonds the world had ever seen and it remains a top producer today. The pursuit and acquisition of diamond fortunes in South Africa shaped the country’s history, and these brilliant gemstones continue to play a vital role in commerce and culture.
The fascinating tour at the Cape Town Diamond Museum not only documents the extraordinary billion-year formation of diamonds deep in the Earth’s crust and the South African diamond journey, but it highlights the contemporary artistry of leading jewellery master craftsman, Shimansky.
Visitors get a unique, behind the scenes experience of the cutting and polishing of diamonds, so synonymous with love, as they tour the state-of-the-art workshop and design studio that produces scintillating creations favoured by celebrities such as Charlize Theron and icons such as Nelson Mandela.
The Cape Town Diamond Museum is open 7 days a week, including public holidays such as Heritage Day, from 9am to 9pm. Tours are complimentary for groups that are booked.
2. TAKE AN EVOCATIVE BOAT TRIP TO ROBBEN ISLAND
A small, roughly oval atoll in Table Bay, Robben Island is a significant part of South Africa’s history.
South Africa’s first democratic president, global icon and Nobel laureate, Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment confined to its rocky shores. The three and a half-hour tour, which covers a 500-year history, departs by ferry across the cold Atlantic from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront and includes hosting by a former political prisoner.
3. SOAK UP THE CULTURE AT THE ZEITZ MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART AFRICA (ZEITZ MOCAA)
What better way to immerse yourself in heritage than a visit to the largest gallery of contemporary African art in the world? Situated in the Silo District of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Zeitz MOCAA exhibits cutting-edge art from Africa and the Diaspora in over 100 contemporary gallery spaces. Entry on Heritage Day is free between 10am and 6pm. The rooftop eatery provides extraordinary views of Table Mountain, Table Bay and the Cape Town City Bowl.
4. HERITAGE DAY IS BRAAI DAY
There’s no shortage of ways to celebrate Heritage Day in Cape Town, and one of the things a visitor may come across is the reference to the 24th of September as ‘Braai Day’. Culinary traditions are important and what South Africa’s many cultures have in common is their shared love for expertly grilling succulent meat over hot coals! “Braai” is the Afrikaans term for barbeque, and when it comes to braaing, South Africans are world-renowned masters. It’s not surprising then, that many locals celebrate Heritage Day with a traditional braai.