The story behind SA’s city nicknames

When exploring this vast and diverse country, you’re bound to come to understand the nuances that make South Africa such a captivating place. One such quirk that makes Mzansi unique is the nicknames we’ve given some regions. From the Mother City to the Friendly City, here are the stories behind the names.

Bloemfontein, the City of Roses

Not only is Bloemfontein South Africa’s judicial capital, it’s also home to the country’s spectacular Rose Festival. And when directly translated from Afrikaans, “Bloemfontein” means “fountain of flowers”.

Johannesburg, the City of Gold

While the origins of the name “Johannesburg” are still a topic of debate, the nickname “City of Gold” is widely known. Following the gold rush in the Witwatersrand in 1886 that subsequently led to the birth of Johannesburg as a mineral and economic hub, the city became known as the “place of gold”, or Egoli in isiZulu.

Cape Town, the Mother City

Tour guide Selwyn Davidowitz explained the root of the nickname in Cape Town Magazine: “In the 1930s, some unknown party wrote to the local Cape Town newspaper claiming that Cape Town was the only city in South Africa that could justly call itself a metropolis. The public took to this description, and because the word ‘metropolis’ is derived from the Greek derivation of meter or metros, which means ‘mother’, and polis, which means ‘city’, the nickname ‘the Mother City’ was born.”

Port Elizabeth, the Friendly (and Windy) City

As the monikers suggest, Port Elizabeth has some of the friendliest South Africans; the warmth of its people draws travellers from the rest of the country and the world. On the other hand, it’s also known as the Windy City, despite it being the second most windy city in the country after Cape Town, according to Hugh van Niekerk, station manager at the South African Weather Service in PE.

Mpumalanga, the Gateway to the Lowveld

The province of Mpumalanga has a few nicknames, including eNaspoti, Citrus City and Gateway to the Lowveld. The latter name is said to be inspired by the region’s Highlands Meander, a scenic route between Gauteng and Nelspruit that allows travellers to make their way through towns such as Belfast, Dullstroom, Lydenburg, Machadodorp and Watervaa Boven.


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