Geography: Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa, is found in the heartland of the country, nestling in the Apies River Valley about 50km north of the bustle of Johannesburg along the N1 highway.
History: Pretoria is the executive capital of South Africa and is home to most of the governmental departments, as well as the South African National Defence Force. Although the Nguni originally inhabited the area, the modern history of the city is closely tied to that of the ruling parties, starting with the Transvaal Republic in the late 1800's. Marthinus Pretorius, son of the Voortrekker hero, Andries Pretorius, founded the town in 1854. It played an important role in the South African (Anglo-Boer) War, which it survived unscathed, and elected its first town council in 1902. City status was granted to Pretoria in 1931. The Voortrekker Monument atop Monument Hill was inaugerated in 1949 to honour the brave Voortrekkers who undertook the Great Trek.
Today it is still the city of presidents and the home of the democratically chosen leader of our country, President Jacob Zuma, who succeeded Thabo Mbeki. The corridors of the crescent-shaped Union Buildings are the official home of the decision-makers of the country.
Science and Nature: Not only is Pretoria a city of fine buildings and museums, but it also has a host of nature reserves and parks. The National Zoological Gardens are the largest in Africa, and visitors can enjoy viewing the flamingos, white lions and white tigers among the other 400 species of mammals, birds and reptiles. Close to the Zoo is the Aquarium and Atlantis Water Park. The city was also the first in Africa to proclaim a nature reserve - President Kruger proclaimed Fountains Valley, where the Apies River has its source, in 1895. Pretoria was once known as the "town of roses", but recently owing to more than 60,000 lilac coloured trees lining the streets, it is now more commonly known as the "Jacaranda City". The blueand mauve trees are especially colourful in October and November. A cruise along Herbert Baker Drive is a must, as it is along here that one can see the rare white jacarandas in bloom. At the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary visitors can view the blue crane, the national bird of South Africa. Other sites of interest to nature lovers include the Tswaing Crater Museum - a 2,000ha site 40km northwest of Pretoria, the site of one of the youngest and best-preserved meteorite impact craters in the world. Here visitors can do a 7.2km Crater Trail walk, or enjoy the displays on the natural and cultural history of the area at the museum.
Entertainment: There is much to keep visitors to Pretoria entertained. The State Theatre has superb productions of ballet, drama, opera and popular musicals, and for some retail therapy the flea market in Strijdom Square is great fun too. Pretoria's arcades with their pavement cafés are a delight for shoppers, as are the fine suburban shopping centres, such as the huge Menlyn Park Mall. Live music, and other pubs and clubs that attract a younger crowd, can be found in Hatfield, while the Derdepoort Regional Park with its farmyard, playground and bushveld atmosphere is wonderful for the kids. Visitors can enjoy a picnic and the fresh air in the Fountains Valley Nature Reserve, and in the Wonderboom Nature Reserve a 1,000-year old fig tree can be seen.
Sport: Pretoria is sport mad and offers world-class facilities to the public. Fans of the Blue Bulls rugby team can watch a game at that hallowed ground, Loftus Versfeld, while the SuperSport Cricket Stadium in nearby Centurion hosts many international tests. Mountain bikers and hikers are in for a great time at the numerous trails found dotted throughout the city and its surrounds.
Did you Know: Pretoria was the first town north of the Vaal to use electricity. Also, the nearby village of Cullinan was where the world's largest rough diamond, the 3,106 carat Cullinan was discovered in 1905.