How Did Cape Town Get to be Called the Mother City?

The City of Cape Town goes by several affectionate (a few more so than others) names. Some of these stretch way back to the time when the city was an all-important part of the Spice Route and include:

  • The Cape of Storms
    Due to the unpredictability of the Atlantic Ocean weather.
  • Tavern of the Seas
    As the first port of call for refreshment after a long journey, Cape Town offered wine, women and song for the lucky sailors who survived the journey.
  • Grab City
    Some of the city’s early hostel keepers were known to be a little capitalistic when it came to board and lodging.
  • Table Bay
    Thanks to Table Mountain and the city’s use as a halfway stop for provisions.
  • Place of Sweet Water
    A term used by early San people in reference to the rivulets of water that flow off Table Mountain.
  • //Hui !Gaeb
    The Khoisan people referred to this area as the ‘place where clouds gather’ to describe the ‘tablecloth’ which forms above Table Mountain.

…And The Mother City

By far the most popular nickname for Cape Town is ‘The Mother City’. This term is used affectionately by local Capetonians to describe the sense of home they feel in the city. Many of the thousands of travellers who visit Cape Town, leave with the same impression.

Where this name comes from is veiled in speculation, with explanations as diverse as the population who call the Mother City home. Here are some of the reasons offered.
You can choose whichever one you like.

  • Cape Town is the original South African city, starting off in 1652 as a refuelling station for East-bound ships. As such, the city is believed to be the Mother of South Africa as we know it today.
  • According to legend, during the 1930s, a local Cape Town rag declared the city to be the only one in South Africa worthy of the description ‘Metropolis’. Directly translated from Greek, this term means Mother City. The name stuck.
  • Rumour has it that the name comes from Cape Town’s laid back vibe in that it takes 9 months (of incubation) for anything to happen in this city.
  • Local lore attributes the term to a local dialect which makes liberal use of the term, ‘Jou Ma…’ meaning ‘Your Mother..’. You can fill in the blanks yourself.

Whichever explanation you prefer, when you visit Cape Town and take advantage of all the wonderful things it has to offer, you’ll agree that Cape Town is indeed the Mother of all cities.

Get in touch today and make arrangements to define your own Mother City experience.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Back to Top