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Port Elizabeth History, South Africa

Port Elizabeth is one of the oldest cities in South Africa. It is located on the South Eastern Coast of South Africa and happens to be the commercial capital of Eastern Cape. Also known as ‘The Friendly City’, Port Elizabeth is the venue of Soccer World Cup 2010. The city is renowned for its all year round wonderful weather and beautiful beaches. Its fantastic economic growth can be attributed to good infrastructure and low crime rate.

A brief look at the antiquity

Port Elizabeth was originally inhabited by the Nomadic San and Koi tribes. It was primarily discovered by Bartolomeu Diaz. He referred this town in his writings as ‘Baia da Roca’ which means bay of rock, in 1482. The nomadic group San hunters (Bushmen) lived in the inland valleys and the gorges while the Koi group lived along the coast line. The significance of Algoa Bay was that it was the first port of call for the ships that went to Goa, India. After this, the port stayed in the hands of the Portuguese for the coming years.

In 1497, Vasco da Gamma came to Algao Bay and mentioned the Bird Island in his writings. The Bird Island is located in heart of Algao Bay.

With the fast and structured development, more and more Dutch settlers from Cape Town began migrating to Port Elizabeth in the 18th century. These people were in search of good farmlands. In 1799, the British established a military post which was called Fort Fredrick. This fort was built as a preparation for the probable French assault. Fredrick Korsten was an influential and a visionary businessman who founded various businesses in the early 19th century like a tannery, whaling station, seal fisheries and retail stores.

This also led to the growth of many businesses in Port Elizabeth area and before the turn of the century, the entire settlement transformed from mere sand dunes to an industrial hub.

The year 1820 was a historic year when around 4000 British migrants arrived by sea to become the first British residents of Algao Bay. The British migrants settled in the Eastern Cape area. The acting governor at that time, Sir Rufane Donkin named the establishment Elizabeth, after his wife.

One of the major factors that contributed to the development of the industrialization was the commencement of the General motors’ plant in Port Elizabeth in the year 1926. This was followed by various other auto majors and soon, Port Elizabeth became famous as little Detroit of South Africa.

Presently Port Elizabeth is one of the economic strongholds of the Eastern Cape Province with industries ranging from auto to textile and food.

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Port Elizabeth City Ratings

  • Rating74%
    City Rank193
  • History & Culture: rated for 80%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 70%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 80%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 90%
  • Food: rated for 70%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 70%
  • Shopping: rated for 80%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 90%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 40%
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