I’ve spent the past two weeks on business travel to Cape Town, South Africa. Given that this is my first trip to South Africa (and undoubtedly not my last) I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our office is near the Platekloof area of the city and when I arrived on May 2nd at night all I could think about was to get to the guest house and a comfortable bed. I was so tired that I couldn’t even focus on orienting myself while the driver who picked me up drove from the airport to the guest house. When we finally got to the guest house I was pleasantly surprised. I stayed at the Capo Cabana guest house and the proprietor, Dorrea Gottardo, was the model of a hostess. Essentially a guest house in Cape Town is the equivalent of a Bed and Breakfast in the US.

Well, Dorrea definitely provided excellent service and wonderful charm. The days went quickly and because I was staying for two weeks (my co-workers from the office were leaving earlier than I was – one on the Friday after I got there and the other on the following Monday) she moved me to the largest room she had – what is most commonly termed the Honeymoon Suite (if only my wife could have come with me on the trip!).

The first Sunday I had available I went on a safari to a place called Inverdoorn. This was an amazing experience – both for the scenery while driving to the preserve, the beauty of the preserve itself (and the animals in it) as well as the amazing drive back. I booked my safari through Blue Monkey Tours. The guide (and proprietor of Blue Monkey Tours), Allan Koorsman, was a wealth of knowledge on the drive both up to as well as back from Inverdoorn. I will post my pictures as soon as I can…they are amazing.

For Shabbat I made arrangements with the Villa Rosa – another excellent guest house – in the Sea Point area of Cape Town. The benefit of the Villa Rosa is that it is literally just up the street from Ohr Somayach. Lynn, the proprietor of Villa Rosa, has an amazing gem on her hands. I stayed in the self-catering flatlet so that I could have my own little kitchen for food on Shabbat and the view was absolutely stunning – looking straight down Arthur’s Way all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. The first Shabbat was windy and sunny and I enjoyed the long walk all the way down the sea wall and further down Victoria Rd. The community around Ohr Somayach is absolutely warm and wonderful! Rabbi Abramson is warm, intelligent, and genuinely inspiring. I felt at home and enjoyed my time with this community. I look forward to spending future Shabbat’s with them and hope to bring my family to enjoy the warmth of the Ohr Somayach family in Cape Town.

I spent my last day in Cape Town hoping for better weather – unfortunately most of the day the fog was pea-soup thick and made it very difficult to justify a trip up to Table Mountain (or to Cape Point for that matter). So, I took a chance and decided to go to Robben Island – the former prison where Nelson Mandela and many other black South African political prisoners were incarcerated. I was lucky, I walked up to the ticket booth and asked for a ticket to the 11AM ferry to the island and fortunately for me someone had canceled…otherwise I would have been stuck. The island itself is 5km long and 2km wide (about 3.1 miles long and 1.2 miles wide). The pictures I got were good (and I’ll post them and make them available when I get back home) and the place was very moving. I had no idea what a role that place played in the overall story of the struggle against apartheid. I left with a desire to learn more about Mandela and those who helped inspire him – notably Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Our tour guide, Yasin Mohammed, was both funny as well as a fountain of information about that time – as well he should be seeing that he spent time on the island as well and was the first General Secretary of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). I learned so much from Yasin about the struggle against apartheid – particularly that while Mandela was the most well-known outside of South Africa, there were many more inside that the world did not know about. Men such as Robert Sobukwe who was the a founding leader of the PAC and who spent time in Robben Island in isolation for so long that his vocal cords atrophied since he had no one to talk with. It is a sad chapter in South Africa’s history. For the actual tour around the Robben Island prison complex where Mandela and many others were held the guide was a former prisoner as well (unfortunately I did not catch his name…I do have a picture of him and will add it to this post when I can). I was enthralled just listening to him relate stories of his experiences at Robben Island.

On the way back I got pictures of Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and Table Mountain all in the distance behind the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront. I can’t wait to come back here next time and find time to go up to the top of Table Mountain…preferably by hiking!

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