Koos Kombuis

If Obama ever came to Cape Town…

2012-07-03 10:49
When the Cape Town city council recently decided to honour America's president Barack Obama by bestowing on him the Freedom of the City, there was only one thing that bothered me; the fact that he would not be accepting this honour in person.

As things stood, it remained a virtual honour. Nothing changed hands. No champagne corks were popped. The Obama did not drive down Adderley Street in an open cavalcade, thronged by thousands of well-wishers.

There is, of course, always the tantalising prospect that, soon, Obama might decide to make Cape Town his holiday destination. Though he and Michelle have briefly been to Cape Town before – 2011, to be exact - they have yet to experience the full extent of what is on offer in this beautiful part of the world.

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In fact, I would love the Obamas to have just such a good time in Cape Town as I had this past weekend. (My wife had planned the whole programme, made the reservations, and I just tagged along, feeling like royalty!)

Our marvellous weekend started with taking the whole family, kids included, to see the new run of the Kramer and Petersen musical Cat and the Kings in a packed Fugard Theatre in Caledon Street.

What a spectacle! What a jol!

What a thoroughly rejuvenating experience of the true culture of Old Cape Town, a culture which was almost destroyed by the previous government but somehow survived in a series of theatrical productions that had achieved iconic status worldwide.

During the interval, we had the honour of shaking hands with The man himself; David Kramer popped in briefly to meet the crowd, and to visit the cast backstage to congratulate them on their successful run.  

The theatrical experience was followed by a culinary experience. We were taken by friends to the Addis in Cape Ethiopan restaurant in Long Street, where we walked up the dingy little staircase right up to the third floor, and, with a breathtaking view of Cape Town's night life through the tall windows, were treated to a variety of Ethiopian dishes.

We sat on low chairs and ate by hand. While we were eating and making merry, children were playing around us, and folks from neighbouring tables drifted over to say hello. I was surprised at how different this kind of communal shared activity felt compared to the private booths of western-style gourmet restaurants.

That night we slept in a very spacious hotel room in erstwhile District Six, with tunes from Cat and the Kings still playing in our heads.

The next morning, we were up at the crack of dawn – fortunately, in Cape Town, on a Sunday, the crack of dawn only arrives at approximately half past ten! – and, inevitably, we pointed the nose of our car in the direction of the Waterfront, where we had a wonderful leisurely breakfast at Hildebrand, a restaurant that reminded me of some of my favourite scenes in Sophie’s Choice. (Let’s not knock Western-style restaurants altogether!)

The wonderful breakfast was followed by the inevitable bout of shopping, I won't pretend that shopping in the Waterfront comes cheap, but of course if I were Obama that wouldn't bother me, and the variety of goods on offer is quite amazing!

In the afternoon, we concluded our Cape Town outing with high tea at the Mount Nelson. This was the first time I had attended anything remotely like a British tea ceremony, and, at first, I was not sure how to behave or whether I was dressed correctly.

But after my third cucumber sandwich, I started feeling distinctly colonial and started speaking with a slight West End accent. It was like being transported directly into an Oscar Wilde or Jane Austen novel.

It is quite mindblowing to realise how many cultures exist side-by-side in Cape Town with such apparent ease and dignity. It is truly a meeting place between east and west, first world and third world, black and white and all colours inbetween. In that respect, our Mother City sure sets a wonderful example for the rest of South Africa to follow.

Satisfied and happy, we flew back to America – sorry, drove back to our plattelandse dorp (for the moment there, I got lost in my Obama fantasy!) - determined to relive the astonishing experience at more regular intervals in the near future.

See you soon, Barack, old pal!

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