Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. The city is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom(Sony pcga-bp2e Battery), including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Cape Town is also Africa's most popular tourist destination.
Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East(Sony pcga-bp2ea Battery). Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa(Sony VGP-BPL2 Battery).
Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2007 the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million. Cape Town's land area of 2,455 square kilometres (948 sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,425 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,690 /sq mi). (Sony VGP-BPS2 Battery)
The city was named the World Design Capital for 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.
Main article: History of Cape Town
A painting of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay (by Charles Bell)
There is no certainty as to when humans first occupied the area prior to the first visits of Europeans in the 15th century. The earliest known remnants in the region were found at Peers cave in Fish Hoek and date to between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago. (Sony VGP-BPS3 Battery) Little is known of the history of the region's first residents, since there is no written history from the area before it was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1486. Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. In the late 16th century, Portuguese, French, Danish, Dutch and English ships regularly stopped over in Table Bay en route to the Indies(Sony VGP-BPS4 Battery). They traded tobacco, copper and iron with the Khoikhoi in exchange for fresh meat. In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck and other employees of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie, VOC) were sent to the Cape to establish a way-station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies, and the Fort de Goede Hoop (later replaced by the Castle of Good Hope) (Sony VGP-BPL4 Battery). The settlement grew slowly during this period, as it was hard to find adequate labour. This labour shortage prompted the authorities to import slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar. Many of these became ancestors of the first Cape Coloured communities. Under Van Riebeeck and his successors as VOC commanders and later governors at the Cape, an impressive range of useful plants were introduced to the Cape – in the process changing the natural environment forever(Sony VGP-BPS5 Battery). Some of these, including grapes, cereals, ground nuts, potatoes, apples and citrus, had an important and lasting influence on the societies and economies of the region.
During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the Netherlands was repeatedly occupied by France, and Great Britain moved to take control of Dutch colonies. Britain captured Cape Town in 1795, but the Cape was returned to the Netherlands by treaty in 1803(Sony VGP-BPL7 Battery). British forces occupied the Cape again in 1806 following the battle of Bloubergstrand. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, Cape Town was permanently ceded to Britain. It became the capital of the newly formed Cape Colony, whose territory expanded very substantially through the 1800s.
The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1867, and the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in 1886, prompted a flood of immigrants to South Africa. (Sony VGP-BPL8 Battery) Conflicts between the Boer republics in the interior and the British colonial government resulted in the Second Boer War of 1899–1902, which Britain won. In 1910, Britain established the Union of South Africa, which unified the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal. Cape Town became the legislative capital of the Union, and later of the Republic of South Africa(Sony VGP-BPL9 Battery).
In the 1948 national elections, the National Party won on a platform of apartheid (racial segregation) under the slogan of "swart gevaar". This led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. Formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. The most infamous example of this in Cape Town was District Six. After it was declared a whites-only region in 1965(Sony VGP-BPS8 Battery), all housing there was demolished and over 60,000 residents were forcibly removed. Many of these residents were relocated to the Cape Flats and Lavender Hill. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a "Coloured labour preference area", to the exclusion of "Bantus", i.e. blacks.
Cape Town was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement(Sony VGP-BPS8A Battery). On Robben Island, a former penitentiary island 10-kilometres from the city, many famous political prisoners were held for years. In one of the most famous moments marking the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 11 February 1990 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after being released. His speech heralded the beginning of a new era for the country(Sony VGP-BPS9 Battery), and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27 April 1994. Nobel Square in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront features statues of South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize winners – Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Since 1994, the city has struggled with problems such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, a surge in violent drug-related crime and more recent xenophobic violence(Sony VGP-BPS9/B Battery). At the same time, the economy has surged to unprecedented levels due to the boom in the tourism and the real estate industries.
Cape Town's "city bowl" as viewed from Table Mountain
Cape Town is located at latitude 33.55° S (approx. the same as Sydney and Buenos Aires and equivalent to Casablanca and Los Angeles in the northern hemisphere) and longitude 18.25° E (approx. the same as Casablanca) (Sony VGP-BPS9/S Battery). Table Mountain, with its near vertical cliffs and flat-topped summit over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) high, and with Devil's Peak and Lion's Head on either side, together form a dramatic mountainous backdrop enclosing the central area of Cape Town, the so-called City Bowl. A thin strip of cloud, known colloquially as the "tablecloth", sometimes forms on top of the mountain. To the immediate south, (Sony VGP-BPS10 Battery) the Cape Peninsula is a scenic mountainous spine jutting 25 miles southwards into the Atlantic Ocean and terminating at Cape Point. There are over 70 peaks above 1,000 feet (300 m) within Cape Town's official city limits. Many of the city's suburbs lie on the large plain called the Cape Flats, which extends over 30 miles to the east and joins the peninsula to the mainland(Sony VGP-BPL10 Battery). The Cape Flats is situated on what is known as a rising marine plain, consisting mostly of sandy geology and confirming that at one point Table Mountain was itself an island.. The Cape Town region generally, with its Mediterranean climate, extensive coastline, rugged mountain ranges, coastal plains, inland valleys and semi-desert fringes, has much in common with Southern California(Sony VGP-BPL11 Battery).
Cape Town enjoys an ocean Mediterranean climate (Koppen Csa), with mild, moderately wet winters and dry, warm summers. Winter, which lasts from the beginning of June to the end of August, may see large cold fronts entering for limited periods from the Atlantic Ocean with significant precipitation and strong north-westerly winds. Winter months in the city average a maximum of 18.0 °C (64 °F)and minimum of 8.5 °C (47 °F) (Sony VGP-BPS11 Battery) Total annual rainfall in the city averages 515 millimetres (20.3 in). Summer, which lasts from early December to March, is warm and dry with an average maximum of 26.0 °C (79 °F) and minimum of 16.0 °C (61 °F). The region can get uncomfortably hot when the Berg Wind, meaning "mountain wind", blows from the Karoo interior for a couple of weeks in February or early March(Sony VGP-BPL12 Battery). Late spring and early summer may sometimes feature a strong wind from the south-east, known locally as the Cape Doctor, so called because it blows air pollution away. This wind is caused by a high-pressure system which sits in the South Atlantic to the west of Cape Town, known as the South-Atlantic High. Cape Town's average amount of sunshine per year (3,100 hours) compares favourably with that of Los Angeles (3,300 hours) (Sony VGP-BPS12 Battery) and exceeds that of Athens and Madrid (2,900 hours).
Water temperatures range greatly, between 10 °C (50 °F) on the Atlantic Seaboard, to 22 °C (72 °F) in False Bay. Average annual Ocean temperatures are between 13 °C (55 °F) on the Atlantic Seaboard (similar to Californian waters, such as San Francisco or Big Sur), and 17 °C (63 °F) in False Bay (similar to Northern Mediterranean temperatures, such as Nice or Monte Carlo) (Sony VGP-BPS13 Battery).
Flora and fauna
Main article: Biodiversity of Cape Town
Located in a CI Biodiversity hotspot as well as the unique Cape Floristic Region, the city of Cape Town has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any equivalent area in the world.
It is home to a total of 19 different vegetation types, of which several are completely endemic to the city and occur nowhere else in the world. (Sony VGP-BPS13/B Battery) It is also the only habitat of hundreds of endemic species, and hundreds of others which are severely restricted or threatened. This enormous species diversity is mainly because the city is uniquely located at the convergence point of several different soil types and micro-climates.
An often quoted fact is that there are more indigenous plant species just on Table Mountain than there are in the whole of the British Isles(Sony VGP-BPS13/S Battery).
Unfortunately, rapid population growth and urban sprawl has covered much of these ecosystems with development. Consequently Cape Town now has over 300 threatened plant species and 13 which are now extinct. In fact, the Cape Peninsula, which lies entirely within the city of Cape Town, has the highest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of equivalent size in the world. (Sony VGP-BPS13A/S Battery)Tiny remnants of critically endangered or near extinct plants often survive on road sides, pavements and sports fields. The remaining ecosystems are partially protected through a system of over 30 nature reserves – including the massive Table Mountain National Park.
The City Bowl viewed from Lion's Head
Main article: City Bowl
The City Bowl is a natural amphitheatre-shaped area bordered by Table Bay and defined by the mountains of Signal Hill, Lion's Head, Table Mountain and Devil's Peak(Sony VGP-BPS13B/S Battery).
The area includes the central business district of Cape Town, the harbour, the Company's Garden, and the residential suburbs of De Waterkant, Devil's Peak, District Six, Zonnebloem, Gardens, Bo-Kaap, Higgovale, Oranjezicht, Schotsche Kloof, Tamboerskloof, University Estate, Vredehoek, Walmer Estate and Woodstock(Sony VGP-BPS13S Battery).
The Northern Suburbs are mostly Afrikaans-speaking, and include Bellville, Bothasig, Brooklyn, Burgundy Estate, Durbanville, Edgemead, Elsie's River, Facreton, Goodwood, Kensington, Maitland, Monte Vista, Panorama, Parow, Richwood, Thornton, Table View, and Welgemoed.
The Eastern Suburbs include Fairdale, Brackenfell, Kraaifontein, Kuils River, Blue Downs, Belhar, Delft and Protea Hoogte(Sony VGP-BPS13AS Battery).
Camps Bay as seen from the ascent to Lion's Head.
A panoramic view of Hout Bay from Chapman's Peak. Chapman's Peak Drive can be seen at the base of the mountain.
The Atlantic Seaboard includes Bantry Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton, Fresnaye, Green Point, Hout Bay, Llandudno, Mouille Point, Sea Point, and Three Anchor Bay.
Main article: Southern Suburbs, Cape Town
The Southern Suburbs include Rondebosch, Claremont, Plumstead, Ottery, Pinelands, Wynberg, Newlands, Bergvliet, Constantia and Bishopscourt(Sony VGP-BPS13A/B Battery).
The historical centre of Simon's Town
The South Peninsula is generally regarded as the area south of Muizenberg on False Bay and Noordhoek on the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to Cape Point. Until recently quite rural, the population of the area is growing quickly as new coastal developments proliferate and larger plots are subdivided to provide more compact housing. It includes Capri Village(Sony VGP-BPS13B/B Battery), Clovelly, Fish Hoek, Glencairn, Kalk Bay, Kommetjie, Masiphumelele, Muizenberg, Noordhoek, Ocean View, Scarborough, Simon's Town, St James, Sunnydale, Sun Valley, and Steenberg.
Main article: Cape Flats
The Cape Flats is an expansive, low-lying, flat area situated to the southeast of the central business district of Cape Town. To most people in Cape Town, the area is known simply as 'The Flats'(Sony VGP-BPS14 Battery).
Described by some as 'apartheid's dumping ground', from the 1950s the area became home to people the apartheid government designated as non-White. Race-based legislation such as the Group Areas Act and pass laws either forced non-white people out of more central urban areas designated for white people and into government-built townships in the Flats(Sony VGP-BPl15 Battery), or made living in the area illegal, forcing many people designated as Black into informal settlements elsewhere in the Flats. The Flats have since then been home to much of the population of Greater Cape Town.
The West Coast suburbs of Cape Town include Bloubergstrand, Milnerton, Tableview, West Beach, Atlantis, Melkbosstrand, Big Bay, Sunset Beach, Sunningdale and Parklands(Sony VGP-BPs15 Battery).
Cape Town City Hall.
Main article: City of Cape Town
Cape Town's local government is the City of Cape Town, which is a metropolitan municipality. Cape Town is governed by a 221-member city council. The city is divided into 111 electoral wards; each ward directly elects one member of the council, whilst the other 110 councillors are elected by a system of party-list proportional representation. The Executive Mayor and Executive Deputy Mayor are chosen by the city council(Sony VGP-BPs18 Battery).
In the local government elections of 18 May 2011, the Democratic Alliance (DA) won an outright majority, taking 135 of the 221 council seats. The African National Congress, the national ruling party, received 73 seats. As a result of this victory Patricia de Lille, the DA mayoral candidate, was inaugurated as Executive Mayor on 1 June(Sony VGP-BPS21A/B Battery).
According to the South African National Census of 2001, the population of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality – an area that includes suburbs and exurbs often considered not to be part of Cape Town – was 2,893,251 people. There are 759,767 formal households, of which 87.4% have a flush or chemical toilet, and 94.4% have refuse removed by the municipality at least once a week. 80.1% of households use electricity as the main source of energy(Sony VGP-BPS21/S Battery). 16.1% of households are headed by one person.
Coloured people account for 48.13% of the population, followed by Black Africans at 31%, Whites at 18.75%, and Asians at 1.43%. In 1944, 47% of the city's population was White, 46% was Coloured, less than 6% was Black African and 1% was Asian. 46.6% of the population is under the age of 24, whilst 5% are over the age of 65(Sony VGP-BPS21B Battery). The median age in the city is 26 years old, and for every 100 females, there are 92.4 males. 19.4% of city residents are unemployed; 58.3% of the unemployed are Black, 38.1% are Coloured, 3.1% are White and 0.5% are Asian. In the actual city of Cape Town, there is a higher percentage of white people.
41.4% of Cape Town residents speak Afrikaans at home, 28.7% speak Xhosa, 27.9% speak English(Sony VGP-BPS21 Battery), 0.7% speak Sotho, 0.3% speak Zulu, 0.1% speak Tswana and 0.7% of the population speaks a non-official language at home. 76.6% of residents are Christian, 10.7% have no religion, 9.7% are Muslim, 0.5% are Jewish and 0.2% are Hindu. 2.3% have other or undetermined beliefs.
4.2% of residents aged 20 and over have received no schooling; 11.8% have had some primary; 7.1% have completed only primary school; 38.9% have had some high education; 25.4% have finished only high school and 12.6% have an education higher than the high school level(Sony Vaio PCG-5G2L Battery). Overall, 38.0% of residents have completed high school. The median annual income of working adults aged 20–65 is ZAR 25,774. Males have a median annual income of ZAR 27,406 versus ZAR 22,265 for females.
Main article: Economy of the Western Cape
Cape Town foreshore area with the central business district in the near-background.
The main entrance to the Cape Town International Convention Centre
Cape Town is the economic centre of the Western Cape Province, South Africa's second main economic centre and Africa's third main economic hub city(Sony Vaio PCG-5G3L Battery). It serves as the regional manufacturing centre in the Western Cape. It also has the primary harbour and airport in the province. 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. Cape Town hosts many conferences(Sony Vaio PCG-5J1L Battery), particularly in the recently expanded Cape Town International Convention Centre, which opened in June 2003 and is due for another expansion within the next year.
Cape Town has recently enjoyed a booming real estate and construction market, because of the 2010 World Cup as well as many people buying summer homes in the city or relocating there permanently. Cape Town hosted 9 World Cup matches(Sony Vaio PCG-5J2L Battery): Six 1st round matches, one second round, one quarter final and a semifinal. The central business district is under an extensive urban renewal programme, with numerous new buildings and renovations taking place under the guidance of the Cape Town Partnership.
Cape Town has four major commercial nodes, with Cape Town Central Business District containing the majority of job opportunities and office space(Sony Vaio PCG-5K2L Battery). Century City, the Bellville/TygerValley strip and Claremont commercial nodes are well established and contain many offices and corporate headquarters as well. Most companies headquartered in the city are insurance companies, retail groups, publishers, design houses, fashion designers, shipping companies, petrochemical companies, architects and advertising agencies. (Sony Vaio PCG-5L1L Battery)
Much of the produce is handled through the Port of Cape Town or Cape Town International Airport. Most major shipbuilding companies have offices and manufacturing locations in Cape Town. The Province is also a centre of energy development for the country, with the existing Koeberg nuclear power station providing energy for the Western Cape's needs(Sony Vaio PCG-6S2L Battery). Recently, oil explorers have discovered oil and natural gas off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
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 2010, over 1.5 million international tourists visited the area.
With the highest number of successful Information Technology companies in Africa, Cape Town is an important centre for the industry on the continent(Sony Vaio PCG-6S3L Battery). Growing at an annual rate of 8.5% and an estimated worth of R77 billion in 2010 nationwide the IT industry in Cape Town is becoming increasingly important to the city's economy.
The city was recently named as the most entrepreneurial city in South Africa, with the percentage of Capetonians pursuing business opportunities almost three times higher than the national average(Sony Vaio PCG-6V1L Battery). Those aged between 18–64 were 190% more likely to pursue new business, whilst in Johannesburg, the same demographic group was only 60% more likely than the national average to pursue a new business.
Cape of Good Hope
Clifton 4th Beach
Panoramic view across the Victoria Basin at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with Table Mountain in the background
The distinctive Cape Malay Bo-Kaap is one of the most visited areas in Cape Town(Sony Vaio PCG-6W1L Battery).
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Cape Town is not only the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa, but Africa as a whole. This is due to its good climate, natural setting, and well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl(Sony Vaio PCG-7111L Battery). Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman's Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain. (Sony Vaio PCG-71511M Battery)
Many tourists also visit Cape Town's beaches, which are popular with local residents. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Though the Cape's water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic. While the Atlantic Seaboard averages annual water temperatures barely above that of coastal California around 13 °C (55 °F) (Sony Vaio PCG-6W3L Battery), the False Bay coast is very much warmer, averaging between 16 and 17 °C (61 and 63 °F) annually. This is similar to water temperatures in much of the Northern Mediterranean (for example Nice). In Summer, False bay water averages slightly over 20 °C (68 °F), with 22 °C (72 °F) a common high. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water due to the Benguela current which originates from the Southern Ocean(Sony Vaio PCG-7113L Battery), whilst the water at False Bay beaches may be warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F) at the same moment due to the influence of the warm Agulhas current, and the surface warming effects of the South Easter wind.
Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay(Sony Vaio PCG-7133L Battery). Boulders Beach near Simon's Town is known for its colony of African Penguins. Surfing is popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.
The city has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is the city's most visited tourist attraction(Sony Vaio PCG-7Z1L Battery). It is also one of the city's most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay(Sony Vaio PCG-7Z2L Battery), Simon's Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black township. An option is to sleep overnight in Cape Town's townships. There are several B&Bs where you can spend a safe and real African night. (Sony Vaio PCG-8Y1L Battery)
Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street. (Sony Vaio PCG-8Y2L Battery) The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on 2 January or "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels parade in brightly coloured costumes, performing Cape Jazz, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments(Sony Vaio PCG-8Z2L Battery). The Artscape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.
The city also encloses the 36 hectare Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden that contains protected natural forest and fynbos along with a variety of animals and birds. There are over 7,000 species in cultivation at Kirstenbosch, including many rare and threatened species of the Cape Floristic Region. In 2004 this Region, including Kirstenbosch, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site(Sony Vaio PCG-8Z1L Battery).
Cape Town's transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. The Cape Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting. Whale watching is popular amongst tourists(Sony Vaio PCG-7112L Battery): Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde's Whales and Killer Whale can be seen any time of the year. The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay. Heaviside's dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town(Sony Vaio PCG-6W2L Battery); Dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.
The only complete windmill in South Africa is Mostert's Mill, Mowbray. It was built in 1796 and restored in 1935 and again in 1995. The mill is open to the public on one Saturday a month.
Approximately 1.5 million tourists visited in Cape Town during 2004, bringing in a total of R10 billion in revenue. (Sony Vaio PCG-5K1L Battery)The forecasts for 2006 anticipate 1.6 million tourists spending a total of R12 billion.[who?] The most popular areas for visitors to stay include Camps Bay, Sea Point, the V&A Waterfront, the City Bowl, Hout Bay, Constantia, Rondebosch, Newlands, Somerset West, Hermanus and Stellenbosch, as well. (Sony VGP-BPL7 Battery)
The total accommodation capacity in Cape Town currently stands at close to 60,000 beds (29,800 rooms) in 2,690 establishments, the highest of all South African cities.
Communications and media
Several newspapers, magazines and printing facilities have their offices in the city. Independent News and Media publishes the major English language papers in the city(Sony VGP-BPL8 Battery), the Cape Argus and the Cape Times. Naspers, the largest media conglomerate in South Africa, publishes Die Burger, the major Afrikaans language paper.
Cape Town has many local community newspapers. Some of the largest community newspapers in English are the Athlone News from Athlone, the Atlantic Sun, the Constantiaberg Bulletin from Constantiaberg, the City Vision from Bellville, the False Bay Echo from False Bay(Sony VGP-BPL8A Battery), the Helderberg Sun from Helderberg, the Plainsman from Michells Plain, the Sentinel News from Hout Bay, the Southern Mail from the Southern Peninsula, the Southern Suburbs Tatler from the Southern Suburbs, Table Talk from Table View and Tygertalk from Tygervalley/Durbanville. Afrikaans language community newspapers include the Landbou-Burger and the Tygerburger. Vukani, based in the Cape Flats, is published in Xhosa(Sony VGP-BPL9 Battery).
Cape Town is a centre for broadcast media and has several radio stations that only broadcast within the city. 94.5 Kfm (94.5 MHz FM) and Good Hope FM (94–97 MHz FM) mostly play pop music. Heart FM (104.9 MHz FM), the former P4 Radio, plays Jazz and R&B, while Fine Music Radio (101.3 FM) plays classical music and jazz(Sony VGP-BPS10 Battery). Bush Radio is a community radio station (89.5 MHz FM). The Voice of the Cape (95.8 MHz FM) and Cape Talk (567 kHz MW) are the major talk radio stations in the city. The University of Cape Town also runs its own radio station, UCT Radio (104.5 MHz FM).
The SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) has a small presence in the city, with satellite studios located at Sea Point. e.tv has a greater presence, with a large complex located at Longkloof Studios in Gardens(Sony VGP-BPS10 Battery). M-Net is not well represented with infrastructure within the city. Cape Town TV is a local TV station, supported by numerous organisation and focusing mostly on documentaries. Numerous productions companies and their support industries are located in the city, mostly supporting the production of overseas commercials, model shoots, TV-series and movies. The local media infrastructure remains primarily in Johannesburg(Sony VGP-BPS10/S Battery).
Cape Town's most popular sports by participation are cricket, association football, swimming, and rugby union. In rugby union, Cape Town is the home of the Western Province side, who play at Newlands Stadium and compete in the Currie Cup. In addition, Western Province players (along with some from Wellington's Boland Cavaliers) (Sony VGP-BPS10A Battery) comprise the Stormers in the Southern Hemisphere's Super Rugby competition. Cape Town also regularly hosts the national team, the Springboks, and hosted matches during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, including the opening ceremony and game, as well as the All Blacks versus England semi-final that saw Jonah Lomu run in four tries(Sony VGP-BPS10B Battery).
Association football, which is better known as soccer in South Africa, is also popular. Two clubs from Cape Town play in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), South Africa's premier league. These teams are Ajax Cape Town, which formed as a result of the 1999 amalgamation of the Seven Stars and the Cape Town Spurs and newly-promoted Chippa United(Sony VGP-BPS11 Battery). Cape Town was also the location of several of the matches of the FIFA 2010 World Cup including a semi-final, held in South Africa. The Mother City built a new 70,000 seat stadium (Green Point Stadium) in the Green Point area.
In cricket, the Cape Cobras represent Cape Town at the Newlands Cricket Ground. The team is the result of an amalgamation of the Western Province Cricket and Boland Cricket teams(Sony VGP-BPS12 Battery). They take part in the Supersport and Standard Bank Cup Series. The Newlands Cricket Ground regularly hosts international matches.
Cape Town has Olympic aspirations: in 1996, Cape Town was one of the five candidate cities shortlisted by the IOC to launch official candidatures to host the 2004 Summer Olympics. Although the games ultimately went to Athens(Sony VGP-BPS13 Battery), Cape Town came in third place. There has been some speculation that Cape Town is seeking the South African Olympic Committee's nomination to be South Africa's bid city for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Further information: List of sports events in Cape Town
The city of Cape Town has vast experience in hosting major national and international sports events(Sony VGP-BPS13/B Battery).
The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour is the world's largest individually timed cycle race – and the first event outside Europe to be included in the International Cycling Union's Golden Bike Series. It sees over 35,000 cyclists tackling a 109 km route around Cape Town. The Absa Cape Epic is the largest full-service mountain bike stage race in the world(Sony VGP-BPS13/S Battery).
Some notable events hosted by Cape Town have included the 1995 Rugby World Cup, 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup, and World Championships in various sports such as athletics, fencing, weightlifting, hockey, cycling, canoeing, gymnastics and others.
Cape Town was also a host city to the 2010 FIFA World Cup from 11 June to 11 July 2010, further enhancing its profile as a major events city. It was also one of the host cities of the 2009 Indian Premier League cricket tournament(Sony VGP-BPS13/S Battery).
Public primary and secondary schools in Cape Town are run by the Western Cape Education Department. This provincial department is divided into seven districts; four of these are "Metropole" districts – Metropole Central, North, South, and East – which cover various areas of the city. There are also many private schools, both religious and secular, in Cape Town(Sony VGP-BPS13A/B Battery).
The University of Cape Town's main campus
Cape Town has a well-developed higher system of public universities. Cape Town is served by three public universities: the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Stellenbosch University, while not in the city itself, is 50-kilometres from the City Bowl and has additional campuses(Sony VGP-BPS13A/S Battery), such as the Tygerberg Faculty of Health Sciences and the Bellville Business Park closer to the City.
Both the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University are leading universities in South Africa. This is due in large part to substantial financial contributions made to these institutions by both the public and private sector. UCT is an English speaking institution. It has over 21,000 students and has an MBA programme that is ranked 51st by the Financial Times in 2006. (Sony VGP-BPS13AS Battery) It is also the top-ranked university in Africa, being the only African university to make the world's Top 200 university list at number 146. Since the African National Congress has come into governmental power, some restructuring of Western Cape universities has taken place and as such, traditionally non-white universities have seen increased financing, which has benefitted the University of the Western Cape(Sony VGP-BPS13B/B Battery).
The public Cape Peninsula University of Technology was formed on 1 January 2005, when two separate institutions – Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon – were merged. The new university offers education primarily in English, although one may take courses in any of South Africa's official languages. The institution generally awards the National Diploma(Sony VGP-BPS13B/S Battery).
Cape Town has also become a popular study abroad destination for many American college students. Many study abroad providers, such as IES Abroad, offer semester, summer, short-term, and internship programs in partnership with Cape Town universities as a chance for American students to gain intercultural understanding(Sony VGP-BPS13S Battery).
Map showing flights from Cape Town International Airport to destinations outside Southern Africa.
Cape Town International Airport serves both domestic and international flights. It is the second-largest airport in South Africa and serves as a major gateway for travellers to the Cape region. Cape Town has direct flights to most cities in South Africa as well as a number of international destinations. (Sony VGP-BPS14 Battery)
Cape Town International Airport recently opened a brand new central terminal building that was developed to handle an expected increase in air traffic as tourism numbers will increase in the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Other renovations include several large new parking garages, a revamped domestic departure terminal, a new Bus Rapid Transit system station and a new double-decker road system(Sony VGP-BPS14/B Battery). The airport's cargo facilities are also being expanded and several large empty lots are being developed into office space and hotels.
The Cape Town International Airport was among the winners of the World Travel Awards for being Africa's leading airport.
Table Mountain from the Harbour.
Cape Town has a long tradition as a port city. The Port of Cape Town, the city's main port, is located in Table Bay directly to the north of the central business district(Sony VGP-BPS14/S Battery). The port is a hub for ships in the southern Atlantic: it is located along one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. It is also a busy container port, second in South Africa only to Durban. In 2004, it handled 3,161 ships and 9.2 million tonnes of cargo.
Simon's Town Harbour on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula is the main base of the South African Navy(Sony VGP-BPS14B Battery).
The Port of Cape Town (specifically the V&A Waterfront) made headlines worldwide during 2009 when plans to berth the iconic liner QE2 were announced.
A Metrorail train leaving Kalk Bay station
The Shosholoza Meyl is the passenger rail operations of Spoornet and operates two long-distance passenger rail services from Cape Town: a daily service to and from Johannesburg via Kimberley and a weekly service to and from Durban via Kimberley(Sony VGP-BPS15 Battery), Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg. These trains terminate at Cape Town railway station and make a brief stop at Bellville. Cape Town is also one terminus of the luxury tourist-oriented Blue Train as well as the five-star Rovos Rail.
Metrorail operates a commuter rail service in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The Metrorail network consists of 96 stations throughout the suburbs and outskirts of Cape Town(Sony VGP-BPS15/S Battery).
The N2, also known as the Nelson Mandela Boulevard (prev. Eastern Boulevard), as it enters the City Bowl and ends in the Central Business District
Three national roads start in Cape Town: the N1 which links Cape Town with Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Zimbabwe; the N2 which links Cape Town with Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban(Sony VGP-BPS18 Battery); and the N7 which links Cape Town with the Northern Cape Province and Namibia. The N1 and N2 both start in the Central Business District, and split to the east of the CBD, with the N1 continuing to the north east and the N2 heading south east past Cape Town International Airport. The N7 starts in Mitchells Plain and runs north, intersecting with the N1 and the N2 before leaving the city(Sony VGP-BPS2 Battery).
Cape Town also has a system of freeway and dual carriageway M-roads, which connect different parts of the city. The M3 splits from the N2 and runs to the south along the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, connecting the City Bowl with Muizenberg. The M5 splits from the N1 further east than the M3, and links the Cape Flats to the CBD. The R300, which is informally known as the Cape Flats Freeway, links Mitchells Plain with Bellville, the N1 and the N2(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ11S Battery).
Golden Arrow Bus Services operates scheduled bus services throughout the Cape Town metropolitan area. Several companies run long-distance bus services from Cape Town to the other cities in South Africa.
Integrated Rapid Transit
Cape Town has embarked on Phase 1 of the IRT system with a total investment of close to R5 billion. Phase 1 will include a West Coast Service, Inner City Service and Airport Link(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ11L Battery). A 2010 Starter service to meet the requirements for the FIFA World Cup will include an Inner City Service, Stadium Shuttle and Airport Service. A total of 43 IRT Volvo buses have been ordered and are expected to be delivered during April and May.
Cape Town taxi rank above train station
Cape Town has two kinds of taxis: metered taxis and minibus taxis. Unlike many cities, metered taxis are not allowed to drive around the city to solicit fares and instead must be called to a specific location(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ11M Battery).
Minibus taxis are the standard form of transport for the majority of the population who cannot afford private vehicles. Although essential, these taxis are often poorly maintained and are frequently not road-worthy. These taxis make frequent unscheduled stops to pick up passengers, which can cause accidents. With the high demand for transport by the working class of South Africa(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ11E Battery), minibus taxis are often filled over their legal passenger allowance, making for high casualty rates when minibuses are involved in accidents. Minibuses are generally owned and operated in fleets, and inter-operator violence flares up from time to time, especially as turf wars occur over lucrative taxi routes.
The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ11Z Battery). The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".
Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ140N Battery), it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision, including Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ15 Battery).
Origin and inspiration
Main article: Origins and architecture of the Taj Mahal
In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire's period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their 14th child, Gauhara Begum. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632. The court chronicles of Shah Jahan's grief illustrate the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ15G Battery). The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:
Shah Jahan, who commissioned the Taj Mahal -"Shah jahan on a globe" from the Smithsonian Institution
Gateway, attendant accommodations, and other tombs.
Taj Ganji (bazaar)
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ15L Battery).
The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian architecture and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from successful Timurid and Mughal buildings including; the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of Timur, progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, in Samarkand), Humayun's Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb (sometimes called the Baby Taj) (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ15M Battery), and Shah Jahan's own Jama Masjid in Delhi. While earlier Mughal buildings were primarily constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, and buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.
The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the Taj Mahal. This large, white marble structure stands on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan (an arch-shaped doorway) topped by a large dome and finial. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ15S Battery).
The Taj Mahal seen from the banks of river Yamuna
The base structure is essentially a large, multi-chambered cube with chamfered corners, forming an unequal octagon that is approximately 55 metres (180 ft) on each of the four long sides. On each of these sides, a huge pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with two similarly shaped, arched balconies stacked on either side(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ15T Battery). This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on the chamfered corner areas, making the design completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; the actual graves are at a lower level(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ160E Battery).
Viewed from the south
Viewed from the east
The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular feature. Its height of around 35 metres (115 ft) is about the same as the length of the base, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical "drum" which is roughly 7 metres (23 ft) high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome or amrud (guava dome) (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ17 Battery). The top is decorated with a lotus design, which also serves to accentuate its height. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners, which replicate the onion shape of the main dome. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ17G Battery). Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The lotus motif is repeated on both the chattris and guldastas. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindustani decorative elements.
Viewed from Masjid
Reflection of Taj
The main finial was originally made of gold but was replaced by a copy made of gilded bronze in the early 19th century(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ17L Battery). This feature provides a clear example of integration of traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements. The finial is topped by a moon, a typical Islamic motif whose horns point heavenward. Because of its placement on the main spire, the horns of the moon and the finial point combine to create a trident shape, reminiscent of traditional Hindu symbols of Shiva. (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ19L Battery)
The minarets, which are each more than 40 metres (130 ft) tall, display the designer's penchant for symmetry. They were designed as working minarets — a traditional element of mosques, used by the muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer. Each minaret is effectively divided into three equal parts by two working balconies that ring the tower(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ190E Battery). At the top of the tower is a final balcony surmounted by a chattri that mirrors the design of those on the tomb. The chattris all share the same decorative elements of a lotus design topped by a gilded finial. The minarets were constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that, in the event of collapse, (a typical occurrence with many tall constructions of the period) the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18 Battery).
Calligraphy on large pishtaq
The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest in Mughal architecture. As the surface area changes the decorations are refined proportionally. The decorative elements were created by applying paint, stucco, stone inlays, or carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic forms(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18E Battery), the decorative elements can be grouped into either calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs.
Throughout the complex, passages from the Qur'an are used as decorative elements. Recent scholarship suggests that the passages were chosen by Amanat Khan. The texts refer to themes of judgment and include(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18M Battery):
The calligraphy on the Great Gate reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you."
The calligraphy was created by a calligrapher named Abd ul-Haq, in 1609. Shah Jahan conferred the title of "Amanat Khan" upon him as a reward for his "dazzling virtuosity". Near the lines from the Qur'an at the base of the interior dome is the inscription(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18L Battery), "Written by the insignificant being, Amanat Khan Shirazi." Much of the calligraphy is composed of florid thuluth script, made of jasper or black marble, inlaid in white marble panels. Higher panels are written in slightly larger script to reduce the skewing effect when viewed from below. The calligraphy found on the marble cenotaphs in the tomb is particularly detailed and delicate(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18G Battery).
Abstract forms are used throughout, especially in the plinth, minarets, gateway, mosque, jawab and, to a lesser extent, on the surfaces of the tomb. The domes and vaults of the sandstone buildings are worked with tracery of incised painting to create elaborate geometric forms. Herringbone inlays define the space between many of the adjoining elements(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18S Battery). White inlays are used in sandstone buildings, and dark or black inlays on the white marbles. Mortared areas of the marble buildings have been stained or painted in a contrasting colour, creating geometric patterns o
On the lower walls of the tomb there are white marble dados that have been sculpted with realistic bas relief depictions of flowers and vines. The marble has been polished to emphasise the exquisite detailing of the carvings and the dado frames and archway spandrels have been decorated with pietra dura inlays of highly stylised, almost geometric vines, flowers and fruits(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21 Battery). The inlay stones are of yellow marble, jasper and jade, polished and levelled to the surface of the walls.
Jali screen surrounding the cenotaphs
Tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Cenotaphs, interior of Taj Mahal
The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal steps far beyond traditional decorative elements. Here, the inlay work is not pietra dura, but a lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones. The inner chamber is an octagon with the design allowing for entry from each face, although only the door facing the garden to the south is used(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21M Battery).
The interior walls are about 25 metres (82 ft) high and are topped by a "false" interior dome decorated with a sun motif. Eight pishtaq arches define the space at ground level and, as with the exterior, each lower pishtaq is crowned by a second pishtaq about midway up the wall. The four central upper arches form balconies or viewing areas(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21E Battery), and each balcony's exterior window has an intricate screen or jali cut from marble. In addition to the light from the balcony screens, light enters through roof openings covered by chattris at the corners. Each chamber wall has been highly decorated with dado bas-relief, intricate lapidary inlay and refined calligraphy panels, reflecting in miniature detail the design elements seen throughout the exterior of the complex(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21S Battery).
The octagonal marble screen or jali which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels which have been carved through with intricate pierce work. The remaining surfaces have been inlaid in extremely delicate detail with semi-precious stones forming twining vines, fruits and flowers(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21J Battery).
Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves. Hence, the bodies of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan were put in a relatively plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right and towards Mecca. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is placed at the precise center of the inner chamber on a rectangular marble base of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) by 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21Z Battery).
Both the base and casket are elaborately inlaid with precious and semiprecious gems. Calligraphic inscriptions on the casket identify and praise Mumtaz. On the lid of the casket is a raised rectangular lozenge meant to suggest a writing tablet. Shah Jahan's cenotaph is beside Mumtaz's to the western side, and is the only visible asymmetric element in the entire complex(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ25 Battery). His cenotaph is bigger than his wife's, but reflects the same elements: a larger casket on a slightly taller base, again decorated with astonishing precision with lapidary and calligraphy that identifies him. On the lid of this casket is a traditional sculpture of a small pen box.
The pen box and writing tablet were traditional Mughal funerary icons decorating the caskets of men and women respectively. The Ninety Nine Names of God are found as calligraphic inscriptions on the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ210CE Battery), in the crypt including "O Noble, O Magnificent, O Majestic, O Unique, O Eternal, O Glorious... ". The tomb of Shah Jahan bears a calligraphic inscription that reads; "He traveled from this world to the banquet-hall of Eternity on the night of the twenty-sixth of the month of Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri." (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31E Battery)
Walkways beside reflecting pool
The complex is set around a large 300-metre (980 ft) square charbagh or Mughal garden. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken parterres or flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway with a reflecting pool on a north-south axis(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31M Battery), reflects the image of the mausoleum. The raised marble water tank is called al Hawd al-Kawthar, in reference to the "Tank of Abundance" promised to Muhammad. Elsewhere, the garden is laid out with avenues of trees and fountains. The charbagh garden, a design inspired by Persian gardens, was introduced to India by the first Mughal emperor, Babur. It symbolises the four flowing rivers of Jannah (Paradise) and reflects the Paradise garden derived from the Persian paridaeza, meaning 'walled garden'(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S Battery). In mystic Islamic texts of Mughal period, Paradise is described as an ideal garden of abundance with four rivers flowing from a central spring or mountain, separating the garden into north, west, south and east.
Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the center. The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, is located at the end of the garden(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31J Battery). With the discovery of Mahtab Bagh or "Moonlight Garden" on the other side of the Yamuna, the interpretation of the Archaeological Survey of India is that the Yamuna river itself was incorporated into the garden's design and was meant to be seen as one of the rivers of Paradise. The similarity in layout of the garden and its architectural features with the Shalimar Gardens suggest that they may have been designed by the same architect(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31B Battery), Ali Mardan. Early accounts of the garden describe its profusion of vegetation, including abundant roses, daffodils, and fruit trees. As the Mughal Empire declined, the tending of the garden also declined, and when the British took over the management of Taj Mahal during the time of the British Empire, they changed the landscaping to resemble that of lawns of London(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ32B Battery).
The Great gate (Darwaza-i rauza)—gateway to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls, with the river-facing side left open. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan's other wives, and a larger tomb for Mumtaz's favourite servant. These structures, composed primarily of red sandstone, are typical of the smaller Mughal tombs of the era(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ32 Battery). The garden-facing inner sides of the wall are fronted by columned arcades, a feature typical of Hindu temples which was later incorporated into Mughal mosques. The wall is interspersed with domed chattris, and small buildings that may have been viewing areas or watch towers like the Music House, which is now used as a museum(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ38M Battery).
Interior of the Taj Mahal mosque
The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble which is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. Its archways mirror the shape of tomb's archways, and its pishtaq arches incorporate the calligraphy that decorates the tomb. It utilises bas-relief and pietra dura inlaid decorations with floral motifs(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Battery). The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex.
Taj Mahal mosque or masjid
At the far end of the complex, there are two grand red sandstone buildings that are open to the sides of the tomb. Their backs parallel the western and eastern walls, and the two buildings are precise mirror images of each other. The western building is a mosque and the other is the jawab (answer), whose primary purpose was architectural balance(Sony Vaio VGN-FW11 Battery), although it may have been used as a guesthouse. The distinctions between these two buildings include the lack of mihrab (a niche in a mosque's wall facing Mecca) in the jawab and that the floors of jawab have a geometric design, while the mosque floor was laid with outlines of 569 prayer rugs in black marble(Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M Battery). The mosque's basic design of a long hall surmounted by three domes is similar to others built by Shah Jahan, particularly to his Masjid-Jahan Numa, or Jama Masjid, Delhi. The Mughal mosques of this period divide the sanctuary hall into three areas, with a main sanctuary and slightly smaller sanctuaries on either side. At the Taj Mahal, each sanctuary opens onto an enormous vaulting dome. These outlying buildings were completed in 1643(Sony Vaio VGN-FW11S Battery).
Ground layout of the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal was built on a parcel of land to the south of the walled city of Agra. Shah Jahan presented Maharajah Jai Singh with a large palace in the center of Agra in exchange for the land. An area of roughly three acres was excavated, filled with dirt to reduce seepage, and levelled at 50 metres (160 ft) above riverbank. In the tomb area(Sony Vaio VGN-FW139E/H Battery), wells were dug and filled with stone and rubble to form the footings of the tomb. Instead of lashed bamboo, workmen constructed a colossal brick scaffold that mirrored the tomb. The scaffold was so enormous that foremen estimated it would take years to dismantle. According to the legend, Shah Jahan decreed that anyone could keep the bricks taken from the scaffold, and thus it was dismantled by peasants overnight(Sony Vaio VGN-FW145E/W Battery). A fifteen kilometre (9.3 mi) tamped-earth ramp was built to transport marble and materials to the construction site and teams of twenty or thirty oxen pulled the blocks on specially constructed wagons. An elaborate post-and-beam pulley system was used to raise the blocks into desired position. Water was drawn from the river by a series of purs, an animal-powered rope and bucket mechanism(Sony Vaio VGN-FW15T Battery), into a large storage tank and raised to a large distribution tank. It was passed into three subsidiary tanks, from which it was piped to the complex.
The plinth and tomb took roughly 12 years to complete. The remaining parts of the complex took an additional 10 years and were completed in order of minarets, mosque and jawab, and gateway. Since the complex was built in stages, discrepancies exist in completion dates due to differing opinions on "completion"(Sony Vaio VGN-FW17/B Battery). For example, the mausoleum itself was essentially complete by 1643, but work continued on the rest of the complex. Estimates of the cost of construction vary due to difficulties in estimating costs across time. The total cost has been estimated to be about 32 million Rupees at that time.
The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia and over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials(Sony Vaio VGN-FW17T/H Battery). The translucent white marble was brought from Makrana, Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble(Sony Vaio VGN-FW17W Battery).
The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision, including Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer.
Artist's impression of the Taj Mahal, from the Smithsonian Institution
A labour force of twenty thousand workers was recruited across northern India. Sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, inlayers from southern India(Sony Vaio VGN-FW19 Battery), stonecutters from Baluchistan, a specialist in building turrets, another who carved only marble flowers were part of the thirty-seven men who formed the creative unit. Some of the builders involved in construction of Taj Mahal are:
Ismail Afandi (a.k.a. Ismail Khan) of the Ottoman Empire — Turkish architect, designer of the main dome(Sony Vaio VGN-FW21E Battery).
Ustad Isa (Isa Muhammad Effendi) of Persia — Turkish architect, trained by Koca Mimar Sinan Agha of the Ottoman Empire and frequently credited with a key role in the architectural design.
'Puru' from Benarus, Persia — has been mentioned as a supervising architect.
Qazim Khan, a native of Lahore – cast the solid gold finial.
Chiranjilal, a lapidary from Delhi — the chief sculptor and mosaicist(Sony Vaio VGN-FW21J Battery).
Amanat Khan from Shiraz, Iran — the chief calligrapher.
Muhammad Hanif — a supervisor of masons.
Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz — handled finances and management of daily production.
Taj Mahal by Samuel Bourne, 1860.
Soon after the Taj Mahal's completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Upon Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him in the mausoleum next to his wife(Sony Vaio VGN-FW21L Battery).
By the late 19th century, parts of the buildings had fallen badly into disrepair. During the time of the Indian rebellion of 1857, the Taj Mahal was defaced by British soldiers and government officials, who chiselled out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. At the end of the 19th century, British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project(Sony Vaio VGN-FW21M Battery), which was completed in 1908. He also commissioned the large lamp in the interior chamber, modelled after one in a Cairo mosque. During this time the garden was remodelled with British-style lawns that are still in place today.
Protective wartime scaffolding
In 1942, the government erected a scaffolding in anticipation of an air attack by German Luftwaffe and later by Japanese Air Force. During the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, scaffoldings were again erected to mislead bomber pilots. (Sony Vaio VGN-FW21Z Battery)
More recent threats have come from environmental pollution on the banks of Yamuna River including acid rain due to the Mathura Oil Refinery, which was opposed by Supreme Court of India directives. The pollution has been turning the Taj Mahal yellow. To help control the pollution, the Indian government has set up the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), a 10,400-square-kilometre (Sony Vaio VGN-FW25T/B Battery) (4,000 sq mi) area around the monument where strict emissions standards are in place.
Concerns for the tomb's structural integrity have recently been raised because of a decline in the water level of the Yamuna River which is decreasing at a rate of 5 feet a year. In 2010, cracks appeared in parts of the tomb, and the minarets which surround the monument were showing signs of tilting(Sony Vaio VGN-FW26T/B Battery), as the wooden foundation of the tomb may be rotting due to lack of water. Some persons predict that the tomb may collapse within 5 years.
The Taj Mahal attracts a large number of tourists. UNESCO documented more than 2 million visitors in 2001, including more than 200,000 from overseas. A two tier pricing system is in place, with a significantly lower entrance fee for Indian citizens and a more expensive one for foreigners. Most tourists visit in the cooler months of October, November and February(Sony Vaio VGN-FW27/B Battery). Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must either walk from parking lots or catch an electric bus. The Khawasspuras (northern courtyards) are currently being restored for use as a new visitor center.
The small town to the south of the Taj, known as Taj Ganji or Mumtazabad, was originally constructed with caravanserais, bazaars and markets to serve the needs of visitors and workmen. (Sony Vaio VGN-FW27/W Battery) Lists of recommended travel destinations often feature the Taj Mahal, which also appears in several listings of seven wonders of the modern world, including the recently announced New Seven Wonders of the World, a recent poll with 100 million votes.
The grounds are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, except for Friday when the complex is open for prayers at the mosque between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. The complex is open for night viewing on the day of the full moon and two days before and after, (Sony Vaio VGN-FW27T/H Battery) excluding Fridays and the month of Ramadan. For security reasons only five items—water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small ladies' purses—are allowed inside the Taj Mahal.
Ever since its construction, the building has been the source of an admiration transcending culture and geography, and so personal and emotional responses have consistently eclipsed scholastic appraisals of the monument(Sony Vaio VGN-FW31M Battery).
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, one of the first European visitors to the Taj Mahal
A longstanding myth holds that Shah Jahan planned a mausoleum to be built in black marble across the Yamuna river. The idea originates from fanciful writings of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a European traveller who visited Agra in 1665. It was suggested that Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb before it could be built(Sony Vaio VGN-FW32J Battery). Ruins of blackened marble across the river in Moonlight Garden, Mahtab Bagh, seemed to support this legend. However, excavations carried out in the 1990s found that they were discolored white stones that had turned black. A more credible theory for the origins of the black mausoleum was demonstrated in 2006 by archaeologists who reconstructed part of the pool in the Moonlight Garden. A dark reflection of the white mausoleum could clearly be seen(Sony Vaio VGN-FW31J Battery), befitting Shah Jahan's obsession with symmetry and the positioning of the pool itself.
No evidence exists for claims that describe, often in horrific detail, the deaths, dismemberments and mutilations which Shah Jahan supposedly inflicted on various architects and craftsmen associated with the tomb. Some stories claim that those involved in construction signed contracts committing themselves to have no part in any similar design(Sony Vaio VGN-FW41J/H Battery). Similar claims are made for many famous buildings. No evidence exists for claims that Lord William Bentinck, governor-general of India in the 1830s, supposedly planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and auction off the marble. Bentinck's biographer John Rosselli says that the story arose from Bentinck's fund-raising sale of discarded marble from Agra Fort. (Sony Vaio VGN-FW41M/H Battery)
Another myth suggests that beating the silhouette of the finial will cause water to come forth. To this day, officials find broken bangles surrounding the silhouette.
In 2000, India's Supreme Court dismissed P. N. Oak's petition to declare that a Hindu king built the Taj Mahal. Oak claimed that origins of the Taj, together with other historic structures in the country currently ascribed to Muslim sultans pre-date Muslim rule of India and thus(Sony Vaio VGN-CS11S/P Battery), have a Hindu origin.
There is a replica of Taj Mahal in the Window of the World theme park located in the western part of the city of Shenzhen in the People's Republic of China. Among the buildings modelled on the Taj Mahal are the Taj Mahal Bangladesh, the Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ and the Tripoli Shrine Temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin(Sony Vaio VGN-CS11S/Q Battery).