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Africa’s Gay Capital

Cape Town, South Africa

By Harry Preston

Recently I took a trip back to Cape Town to spend a few weeks with my family. I never dreamed the most beautiful city in the world had become the gay capital of Africa. During my visit, The Cape Times (where I was drama critic in 1946) featured a front-page magazine article on the enormous economic benefits that the gay community has brought to the city.

After arriving in Cape Town, I checked with Gay escape, the local gay tourist bureau and was referred to T’Groenezicht, a gay guesthouse, one of several dozen in the city. This old Dutch mansion overlooking the city has a pool, a sauna, and clean, comfortable rooms each with private bath. Included in the daily rate is a sumptuous breakfast, all for 220 Rand a night (less than $40).

With the rate of exchange, dollars can buy you just about anything at one-sixth the price in the U.S. Beyond the airfare, I spent less than $700 for a glorious 4-week vacation that included buying wonderful clothes at a fraction of the price one pays in the States.

For those into the bar scene, Cape Town has many gay clubs that never close. Many have very professional floor shows, such as "The Broadway," in which the cast performed a salute to ABBA.

But the best attractions are the glorious wide beaches that stretch from Cape Town all around the peninsula at the tip of Africa. Graaff’s Pool is a walled-off area in the Sea Point suburb where swimsuits are the exception. Further down the coast is Sandy Bay, a massive beach nestled beneath the mountains where dozens sunbathe and socialize in the nude.

Along the docks is the recently built Waterfront, a massive complex of malls with literally hundreds of stores and restaurants overlooking the ocean. Cruising the Waterfront is a favorite pastime of the locals as they can meet visitors from all over the world. The small costal city of Knysna is also worth a visit and boasts a very large gay community.

Scenically, Cape Town itself is unbelievably impressive, but today law and order are almost nonexistent. No one should walk the streets alone after dark because muggings and holdups are a nightly occurrence. Civil unrest continues, and residents are forced to live behind barred windows and doors because of the escalating crime rate that has made Johannesburg the murder capital of the world.

But despite the problems, if you take taxis and maintain a careful attitude, you can have a wonderful time in Cape Town and bring back memories that will linger forever. More information can be obtained on the Internet by looking up "Gay" or "Lesbian" on the South African search engine ANANZI.

HARRY PRESTON is a veteran Dallas, TX author and screenwriter.

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