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South Africa’s City of Saints

Interesting facts about South Africa’s Makhanda town (Grahamstown)


In the Eastern Cape of South Africa lies Makhanda town, formerly known as Grahamstown popular for hosting several, top universities in South Africa, religious centres and an army base.

Grahamstown was a pre-colonial military outpost and its name was changed to Makhanda in June 2018 in memory of Xhosa warrior and prophet, Makhanda ka Nzele. It is home to over 70, 000 people. 

With its rich history, Makhanda town is a major tourist destination in South Africa due to its deep religious beliefs which is the backdrop of its christening “City of Saints”.

The town has over 40 religious buildings and a string of churches from Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Ethiopian Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Pinkster Protestante, Dutch Reformed (Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk), Charismatic, Apostolic and Pentecostal churches. The town also has mosques and synagogues.

The famous Cathedrals of St Michael and St George are located in Makhanda. 

Additionally, the prestigious Rhodes University, South African National Library for the Blind, the National English Literary Museum, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (formerly the JLB Smith Institute), the International Library of African Music all sit in Makhanda. The iconic Albany Museum is also in Makhanda. 

Albany Museum contains the local and natural history of South Africa and an observatory museum. For English lovers, the Institute for the Study of English in Africa is at the heart of Makhanda.

South Africa’s provost military prison is located here as well as the 6 South Africa Infantry Batallion. Kwandwe and Kwantu Private Game Reserves hold the town’s wildlife heritage. 

The National Arts Festival, the largest in Africa is held every year between June and July in Makanda. Big names in the industry from South Africa and around the world throng Makhanda. It also hosts SciFest Africa, a natural science festival which is also a large event is held in April.

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