Eastern Cape's 2010 festivals
29 April 2010
A myriad of festivities awaits football fans visiting South Africa's Eastern Cape – where the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is situated – for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™. The province will be alight with a fever of festivals, from culture in Grahamstown to cultured oysters in Knysna, from surfer's paradise in Jeffreys Bay to wonder on the "Wild Coast".
A major attraction for tourists looking for a dose of culture in the "province of festivals" will be the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, running over 15 days from 20 June through 4 July.
National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
The festival is South Africa's premier annual arts and culture event, hosting both top-notch international acts and South Africa's best known performers, writers, directors, musicians, dancers and choreographers – "a great mix", says National Arts Festival chief executive Tony Lankester.
"It is a melting point of ideas and creative energy that will invigorate and excite anyone ... We look forward to welcoming the world," said Lankester.
With almost 500 productions and 2 500 performances, it will be a cultural welcome unlike any other. And this year's event has been specially structured to attract football fans.
"With the World Cup in mind, we want to showcase the best South Africa has to offer across every genre so our performers can put their work at the feet of the world," Lankester said.
"Because the World Cup is a global celebration, we wanted to ensure our programme featured some strong, exciting, vibrant, celebratory international work. We've got that mix right, and I think we're poised for a great event."
With Grahamstown just over an hour's drive from the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro/Port Elizabeth, and about two hours' drive from East London/Buffalo City, the festival is perfect for both "bite-sized" day trips and extended stays.
"In between the games, we would encourage tourists to sample some of the local culture," Lankester said. "Visiting another country is an exciting opportunity to do more than just sightsee – it is a chance to immerse yourself in the fabric of the nation and, in South Africa's case, there is no better place to do that than the National Arts Festival."
Knysna Oyster Festival
Lankester said visitors to the Eastern Cape would not be disappointed, as South Africa's "hidden gem" had an incredible variety on offer.
Just on the border of the Eastern and Western Cape is Knysna, which will host the Dutch and French football teams over the Fifa World Cup, and the week-long Knysna Oyster Festival from 2-11 July.
About three hours' drive from Port Elizabeth, Knysna marks the beginning of South Africa's famous "Garden Route" – the beautiful stretch of coastline to Cape Town – renowned for its sweeping landscapes, coastal towns, cuisine and, closer to the Mother City, wine.
Oyster Festival organisers say the presence of the Danish and French will add a World Cup flavour, but that the festival will also be an escape from the fever pitch.
"We will incorporate Danish and French elements in our programme (including Danish and French villages)," said festival manager Nicci Rousseau-Schmidt. "Menus are being translated into French, restaurants will offer French and Danish dishes, so Knysna will be very cosmopolitan this year.
"For local tourists, we market the festival as the best 10 days of 2010 – with a month holiday, what better place to be?"
The Knysna Oyster Festival programme has over 100 scheduled events.
"Other than the [World Cup] stadiums, the festival is the perfect place to meet and interact with some South Africans, and do what they do best – have fun in beautiful surroundings," Rousseau-Schmidt said.
J-Bay, Wild Coast
For a more chilled experience – flush with waves and surfers – the Billabong Pro in Jeffreys Bay (known as J-Bay) takes place just after the World Cup, from 8-18 July, and is only a 45-minute drive from Port Elizabeth. Top surfers from around the world come and transform this coastal town into a chilled paradise.
If you can bite off more than you can chew, the weekend-long Somerset East Biltong Festival, offers a meaty South African treat over the weekend of 16-17 July.
Other festivals, complementing formal Fifa World Cup events, take place on the part of the "Wild Coast" nearest East London.
The Wild Coast Wet 'n Wild Festival is a sports and entertainment extravaganza taking place in Chintsa, 40 minutes from East London, from 28 June to 5 July. Also close by is the Wild Coast Jikeleza Country Fair, from 4 to 5 July.