Part of the fun of vacationing in Cape Town is shopping for souvenirs to remember your holiday for years to come, and spoiling your friends and family back home. You can find a great selection of authentic African curios, gifts and artwork on almost every corner. Here are eight uniquely South African mementos to pick up in the Mother City.
Wherever you go in Cape Town, you’re bound to come across a variety of creative wood carvings like African masks, figurines and animals — they make great coffee table centerpieces or wall adornments! Depending on your budget, you can find quality designer pieces at boutiques like Taung Trading Post, or inexpensive carvings at one of the many craft markets and roadside stalls around the city.
Beadwork is firmly rooted in the many tribal cultures of South Africa and has become a major ecotourism activity, creating sustainable employment for many people with traditional beading skills. A wide variety of colorful beadwork can be found at craft markets, boutiques and shopping centers. Choose from beaded dolls, jewelry, keyrings and even beaded cutlery — you’ll be hard pressed not to buy them all!
Like beadwork, wire art is highly sought after by tourists and locals alike. This creative pastime originated in rural areas around the country and quickly became a lucrative trade for local wire artists. Today beaders and wire artists collaborate to create decorative and functional objects, from flowers and toy cars to intricate animal figurines, furniture and homeware. Check out Streetwires, a Fair Trade collective of wire and bead artists based in Cape Town.
Decorated ostrich eggs make excellent gifts or décor items for your home. They are quite delicate, but if you’re able to transport them safely, you may be interested in picking up a few of these unique items. Popular souvenirs include ostrich egg stands emblazoned with delicately painted African scenes, hand-carved lights, photo frames and jewelry. They are mainly found at high-end boutiques online and around the city, and tend to be quite pricey.
Due to the favorable exchange rate, many international tourists come to South Africa to shop for gemstones and precious metals. Aside from diamonds, tanzanite is a sought after stone with a limited supply from its only source in Africa — the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a thousand times rarer than diamond and is deep blue in color, which makes for alluring jewelry. Remember to always buy tanzanite at an authentic jewelry store.
Rooibos (redbush) tea is a quintessential South African product to add to your shopping list whilst in Cape Town. The fragrant, caffeine-free tea comes from a shrub that grows exclusively in the Cederberg mountains, three hours outside of Cape Town. Rooibos tea is exported worldwide and is popular for its antioxidant properties and ability to blend well with other herbal teas.
Mebos is a popular South African preserve made from dried apricots. It is made by brining ripe apricots, shaping them into flat rounds, and leaving them out in the sun to dry for a few days. They can be coated in sugar or eaten as is, and make a delicious sweet-and-sour snack between meals.
Amarula is a famous South African liqueur made from the exotic fruit of the Marula tree indigenous to the plains of sub-Saharan Africa. It is best enjoyed on the rocks or over ice cream. Many chefs also like to use the creamy liqueur in desserts at local fine dining restaurants.