Cape Town or Capetown, city, legislative capital of South Africa, capital of Western Cape prov., and seat of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality; a port on the Atlantic Ocean. It was the capital of Cape Province before that province's subdivision in 1994. The city lies at the foot of Table Mt. (c.3,570 ft/1,090 m) and on the shore of Table Bay. Cape Town is a commercial and industrial center; oil refining, food, chemical, and fertilizer processing, and the manufacture of automobiles, leather and plastic goods, and clothing are the chief industries. An important port, Cape Town exports mainly gold, diamonds, and fruits. With one of the world's largest drydocks, ship repairing is an important industry. Much of the former dock area is now a commercial and tourist waterfront area with museums, craft markets, and restaurants.
Cape Town was founded in 1652 by Governor Jan van Riebeeck as a supply station on the Dutch East India Company's sea route to the East. In 1795 the British occupied the city. It was returned to the Dutch in 1803 but recaptured in 1806 by the British, who established Cape of Good Hope Colony with Cape Town as capital. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, Cape Town became its legislative capital and Pretoria its administrative capital.
Cape Town's attractions include the Castle, a fortress dating from 1666; the Dutch Reformed church (begun 1699); Old Town House (1755), which contains a museum of 17th-century Flemish and Dutch paintings; and botanical gardens and an aquarium. The Univ. of Cape Town and a technical college are in the city; nearby is the Groote Schuur estate, the former prime minister's and president's residence, now a museum and the Univ. of the Western Cape. The city has an international airport. Robben Island, a former political prison, is offshore.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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