Zoar

Small Towns around Cape Town ” ZOAR”.

Situated between the Swartberg Mountains an the Rooiberg mountains, and forming part of the Kannaland Municipal district, we find my home, which is the oldest village in the Klein Karoo, Zoar, with over 5000 residents. The highest mountain peak in the Western Cape, Seweweekspoort Peak (2325m) watches over our village. Seweweekspoort, which is a natural gateway through the Swartberg mountain and forms part of a a UNESCO World Heritage site. The world famous Route 62, the longest wine route in the world, passes through the village and can be clearly seen when travelling through the Klein Karoo.

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My village  was formally known as Doornkraal, which was and is regarded as the traditional home of the First Nation indigenous Attaqua tribe of the Korana or Quena, now known as the Khoi people, whose home range extended throughout the Klein Karoo area. Various clans of the Attaqua trekked with their animals to various pastures with Zoar being an intersecting point, so there was always people in the immediate area.

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Being colonial times, in 1817 the S.A. Missionary Society were the first to convert the indigenous people to christianity, even changing the village name from Doornkraal to Zoar, named after the biblical town which means ” Place of refuge”. Which effectively makes Zoar 203 years old this year, as a former mission station. The old folk reluctantly accepted the name, and they began calling themselves “Zoraners” giving the missionary Petrus Joubert, the understanding that the villagers were okay with the new name of the village. However the old folk, realised their world was changing, and chose to combine Zoar and Korana forming the name “Zoaraner”, to give the next generations a backdoor to reclaim their heritage. This name is still used to identify villagers down to this day. Today the village still has a semblance of the old ways, with a traditional tribal council and a Paramount Chief, keeping alive some of the old cultural ways, what little they can.

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Also in the early years, a second mission station, Amalienstein, was established and named after Baroness Amalie von Stein who donated the money for the land to be acquired. It was established for the same indigenous community by the Berlin Missionary Society, who also built a church for the growing population which numbered over 1000 residents by 1853.  Today none of the missions are operating, Amalienstein itself just being a dairy farm and various denominations can now be found in and around Zoar. Although being the oldest village, it’s also one of the poorest, generally most folks here work on the farms, so everyone only really has work 3-5 months of the year. With that, the community is starting to look at tourism as a way to Improve the employment situation in the village.

Zoar is the ideal location for those who enjoy an eco cultural experience. B&B’s, selfcatering cottages, even Backpackers are available for vistors as a base to explore the village and surrounds. Many MTB visitors are always in the area enjoying the gravel roads and hilly terrain. The surrounding countryside, is simply awesome as three vegation biomes are found here, Succulent Karoo, Subtropical thicket and Fynbos. Seweweekspoort is by far the anchor attraction for most visitors as the road winds through the mountains, the cliffs on either side of the road rise up to 1500-2000m above sea level. It is also  one of the best examples of the Cape Fold mountains as the folded layers of rock are clearly seen from the road and the rare Aristata Protea is also found there.

Zoar is clearly one of those undiscovered gems that one has to add to your bucket list!

 

Written by

Alistair Reizenberg

Guide registration: WC4969

Guide Qualified for 9 Provinces & Eswatini



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