Most cities are based around some feature of geography. London, for instance, started life as a settlement on the banks of the Thames, where ships could sail up from the sea and dock.

Johannesburg seems to be the exception to this rule, and suffers from a lack of surface geography. But it too is based on a feature of the land: the gold underneath it.

Johannesburg's perenial rival city, Cape Town, is not based on a river or a goldmine. Instead it began life as a half-way station on the long sea voyage around Africa for the Dutch East India Company, and later the British empire. For this, you need a sheltered harbour. And this route was still critical until the suez canal was finished in 1869.

If you have seen the canonical picture postcard of Cape Town, you will have seen the flat top of Table Mountain, the CBD of the city beneath it, seen from across the sheltered table bay.

In the middle of the bay is an Island, Robben Island, with it's own history.

On the other side of the peninsula is a larger, fiercer bay, which gets it's name from the fact that it's the wrong bay: False Bay. I don't know of any other geographic features named after boolean values but who knows, maybe there's a true mountain out there somewhere.

Despite this drawback the British did later establish a naval base in False Bay, in a sheltered cove at Simonstown.

False bay is on the warmer, Indian ocean side and Table bay is on the colder, Atlantic side, but actually both are too cold.

The Table bay is also the name of a five-star hotel on the waterfront near the harour, overlooking table bay.

Node your hometown

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