Long Street in Cape Town has an irresistible ambience and irrepressible spirit. With architecture so unique, it has Victorian verandas with broekie lace alongside Muslim Mosques mingling in a curiously appealing clash of cultures.
And long it certainly is. It stretches along more than 20 blocks of Cape Town's CBD. Long Street is a one-way street stretching from the Waterfront side (previously known as the Foreshore side) to the Gardens side (heading towards the mountain).
The lower Foreshore end is mainly office blocks and endless ongoing construction. But there are some great historical sites such as the Metropole Hotel, built in 1894 and the Mission Church - one of the oldest churches in South Africa. Long Street could quite easily take you a whole day to explore at a leisurely pace. The really interesting part starts after the rather busy Wale Street intersection. Most of the roads intersecting Long Street have stop signs instead of traffic lights.
On your left you'll pass a Travel agency, Tommy's Modern Book Sellers (one of several in the street), the Yellow Pepper Bistro and finally, the Noor el Hameida Mosque at the Dorp Street intersection. This mosque dates back to 1884 and is one of two mosques in Long Street.The other is the Pink Tree Mosque, one block away on the left hand side of the road.
The Pink Tree Mosque is the second oldest mosque in South Africa. It was erected in a building dating back to 1777, but is in fact a "landar", a place used for worship - not a real mosque. The mosque was so named because of the two palm trees that used to grow on the pavement outside (see old photo)
The Palm Wine and Spirit Store, is ironically located next door and is also named after the twin palms. This bottle store has an amazing selection of imported liquor (some very expensive) and a very wide selection of South African wines you may not find in larger stores. Inside there are wonderful old photos of Long street on display, some dating back to 1926.
Between the Dorp Street and Leeuwen Street intersections there are two well known bookshops, the Long Street Bookshop and the Reader's Den Bookshop. An elderly couple run The Help-a-pet Bargain Shop, which has been there for eons, still dress in 1950's style. They sell mainly old clothes, curtains, toys and magazines. All proceeds go to Animal Welfare.
Looking down at the Leeuwen Street intersection you can see the Supreme Court. On the right hand side there are no less than three restaurants before the next intersection with Bloem Street. Mama Africa has wonderful jungle inspired decor, complete with a wide snake print bar counter. This block also has two nightclubs, a tailor, a youth travel centre, a scooter hire place, Clarke's Bookshop, the wonderfully interesting Second Time Around clothing emporium and equally fascinating Bead Shop.
Right at the top end of Long Street are the Long Street Baths. The baths have always been a popular haunt and were quite recently beautifully upgraded. However, they have in the past been known to be frequented by the likes of "sailors' ladies".
Inside is a heated swimming pool, changing rooms and Turkish baths with steam and dry-heat rooms. Massages are also available. The pool is very well attended at lunchtime by keep-fit enthusiasts and businesspeople. The complex dates back to 1908, although the Turkish bath section was later opened in 1929.