Cape Town is the third most populous city in South Africa. The town is the provincial capital of the Western Cape, as well as the legislative capital of South Africa. With a population of 2.9 million, Cape Town is famous for its harbor and its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom.
When the first Portuguese explorers landed on what they called Cape of Good Hope, the area was inhabited by the San, a tribe of hunter-gatherers, and the Khoikhoi, semi-nomadic cattle keepers, collectively known as Khoisan. Bartholomeus Dias was the first to round the Cape in 1487, but preoccupied as he was with reaching the East he paid little attention to the Cape.
It was only when a Dutch ship headed for the East Indies was wrecked before the coast that the first settlement was created. Originally, the survivors of the shipwreck just built a fort to inhabit the year it took them to get rescued. This helped the directors of the Dutch East India Company realize that it might not be a bad idea to establish a permanent settlement at the Cape. They didn't intend to colonize the Cape but wanted a safe place.
In 1652 Jan van Riebeek was sent to lead the small expedition that was to found the first settlement. He traded with the Khoisan for meat, built the first mud-walled fort close to where the later stone fort still survives, and planted the garden now known as the Company's Gardens. The town grew slowly during this period, as it was hard to find adequate labor. This labor shortage prompted the town to import slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar; many of whom came to form the first Cape Colored communities.
In 1975 the British successfully gained outright control of Cape Town, during the Battle of Muizenberg. This proved to be a disaster for the indigenous peoples of the Cape. They were driven away from their lands, killed in conflicts, or succumbed to new European diseases. The survivors were forced into little more than slavery.
By the end of the 18th century, the Dutch power was fading, and the British saw their chance to seize the Cape. This dissatisfied the Boers, leading to the Great Treks in 1834, an attempt to escape the recently imposed British rule, policies, laws on slavery and the perceived indifference of British authorities to border wars conflict on the eastern frontier.
Cape Town is the economic centre of the Western Cape and serves as the regional manufacturing centre. It also has the primary harbor and airport in the Western Cape. The large government presence in the city, both as the capital of the Western Cape and the seat of the National Parliament, has led to increased revenue and growth in industries that serve the government.
The Western Cape also generates a quarter of the South African agricultural sector's total gross income and more than half of South Africa's exports. Much of the produce is handled through the Port of Cape Town or Cape Town International Airport. Most major ship-building companies have offices and manufacturing locations in Cape Town.
The Western Cape is an important tourist region in South Africa; the tourism industry accounts for 9.8% of the GDP of the province and employs 9.6% of the province's workforce. In 2004, over 1.5 million international tourists visited the area.
Cape Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa due to its good climate, natural setting, and relatively well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain. It also has several notable cultural attractions. Cape Town's transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province.