THE SOUTH AFRICAN PEOPLE
South Africa is fondly known as the “Rainbow Nation”, due to its cultural diversity comprising people of the San (or Bushman), Nguni, Sotho-Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Indian, Afrikaner, English and mixed origins, as well as immigrant communities from all corners of the world. South Africa is a true melting pot of cultural richness.
The South African people have managed a remarkable transition from a racially divided society to one that is founded on democratic principals. The way South Africans have overcome historical racial divides is lauded throughout the world. The people of South Africa continue to work together to develop and promote their country which recognises and celebrates difference in diversity of cultures, languages and religion.
- South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world, just across the Vaal River near Parys, called the Vredefort Dome. The meteor plummeted to Earth nearly two billion years ago (Earth is said to be 4,5 billion years old), predating the heady days of oxygen and multi-celled life.
- The rocks around Barberton in Mpumalanga are some of the most ancient in the world – over three billion years old. Because they are also the most accessible such formations, NASA scientists come here to gain an idea of how life might form on distant planets. South Africa also is home to many ancient hominid fossil remains and the area just north of Johannesburg is known as the “Cradle of Humankind”.
- There are only 12 countries in the world that supply tap water that is fit to drink and South Africa is one of the top three in terms of quality.
- Where else is an entirely new species being recreated from scratch? The kwagga, an extinct Zebra species, vanished in a frenzy of hunting in the 1800s, but after finding that the DNA is almost identical to the common Burchell’s zebra, the species is being brought back from beyond the brink by careful breeding of stripe-challenged zebras.
- Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world and the largest green canyon. The Grand Canyon in the USA is the biggest.
- South Africa a Cape Floral Kingdom, one of six global plant kingdoms is more biodiverse than the biodiversity of rainforests. The Cape Peninsula has greater floral diversity than the whole of Europe.
- South Africa has pioneered the principle of Transfrontier Parks in Africa far beyond the simple Waterton-Glacier model and is a primary agent in focusing world attention on sustainability and the need for trans-frontier parks that preserve our continent’s natural richness for all future generations.
- South Africa pioneered heart transplant surgery in the world.
- South Africa leads the world in diamond production, and is a world leader in precious metal supplies – gold, platinum, palladium, vanadium and of course many other metals such as iron, chrome, tin, zinc and copper
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
- Our country is home to two of the world’s most profoundly compassionate philosophies – Ubuntu and Gandhi’s notion of “passive resistance” (Satyagraha), which he developed while living in South Africa. Ubuntu stresses the fact that all people are fundamentally connected; that we are human because of each other: “I am because you are”.
- At least half of South Africa’s population is now officially urbanised. Interestingly though, a huge trend is developing where young urban families move from big cities to rural towns to live life on a more sustainable scale and get in touch with the Earth, simultaneously revitalising the countryside.
- The Cederberg Mountain range in the Western Cape and the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are known as the biggest art gallery in the world, thanks to hundreds upon hundreds of ancient San/Bushman paintings in caves and overhangs. Bushman paintings make up the earliest rock art on the planet – some are tens of thousands of years old.
The country is a rich tapestry of European, Asian and African peoples blended into a single whole, but retaining the richness of their heritage and past within the mould of a vision for the future. Apart from great musicians like Hugh Masakela, Miriam Makeba and Johnny Clegg, our country boasts poets and writers like Laurens van der Post and Credo Mutwa, two visionaries for South Africa’s Nobel peace prize winners include Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former presidents FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
There are some South African specialities that visitors to our shores won’t find anywhere else in the world. Here’s a taste of what to expect: Kingklip – no other country consumes as much kingklip as South Africans do. A sturdy fish with beautiful flakes, it absorbs flavours well and is a local delicacy. Karoo lamb – by all accounts most chefs agree that we have something special in Karoo lamb. The animals feed on fragrant shrubs and wild herbs that lend the meat its unique flavour. Grilled, gourmet-style, barbequed or basted, it’s a sure-fire winner.
Biltong and boerewors – these must be our national icons in the food arena. In the early days before refrigeration the Dutch preserved excess meat from the hunt by rubbing it with salt, pepper, coriander, vinegar and saltpetre and hanging it out to dry. Meat treated in this manner lasted indefinitely as long as it was kept dry.
Boerewors is a robust farmer’s sausage. The meat is spicy and redolent of coriander and sizzles and splatters companionably when slapped on the coals or dropped onto a hot skillet.
Bobotie – a traditional Cape Malay dish of spiced mince. Braaivleis – at the heart of the South African outdoor life – the ubiquitous barbecue. Try “pap and wors”, two unusual combinations that are uniquely and quintessentially South African.
Samoosas – these triangular savoury pastries are the Indian South African answer to the English meat pie (although we have those too). The filling can be made of either chilli-laden mince or a spicy vegetable mix.
SO WHAT’S TO DRINK AROUND SOUTH AFRICA?
If you’re looking to find something non-alcoholic, here are a few suggestions: Liquifruit and Ceres: these 100% fruit juices are so highly valued that delis in New York and Paris stock them. No preservatives, no added sugar – just concentrated fruit juice that tastes like the real deal. Then there are canned drinks that are unique too – Appletizer and Grapetizer.
Rock shandy – this is the sportsman’s thirst quencher of choice, but has proved to be equally popular in restaurants. It’s a mixture of club soda, carbonated lemonade and a splash of bitters
On the alcoholic front we serve Cane spirits – made from distilled sugar cane, where it is mixed into cocktails and combined with tropical fruit juices. Cane is South Africa’s answer to Vodka.
Brandy – we make some of the best brandy (cousin to the Cognacs of France) in the world – a fact not widely known. Drunk traditionally with Coca-Cola it should actually be enjoyed in a crystal snifter after a good meal with a cigar to match.
Beer – every country has its beers and South Africa is particularly partial to its brew in view of the warm climatic conditions that prevail.
Wine and sparkling wines – this is where you can expect to be truly spoilt. South African wines are excellent and very affordable when compared to overseas products. Try the robust local reds (like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage a variety unique to this country). For something special at a minimal price, order a bottle of local bubbly like Cap Classique or Krone Borealis. Fermented in the bottle in the French tradition, it makes for light, easy drinking with a festive air.