Gqeberha formerly Port Elizabeth, and colloquially often referred to as P.E., is a major seaport and the most populous city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is the seat of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, South Africa’s second-smallest metropolitan district by area size. It is the sixth-most populous city in South Africa and is the cultural, economic and financial centre of the Eastern Cape.

In 2019, the Eastern Cape Geographical names Committee recommended that the city’s name be changed to Gqeberha. In February 2021, Port Elizabeth was renamed Gqeberha, after the Xhosa and Southern Kloe name for the Baakens River that flows through the city.

The city was founded as Port Elizabeth in 1820 by Sir Rufane Donkin, who was the governor of the Cape at the time. He named it after his late wife, Elizabeth, who had died in India. The Donkin memorial in the CBD of the city bears testament to this. Gqeberha was established by the government of the Cape Colony when 4,000 British colonists settled in Algoa Bay to strengthen the border region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa. It is nicknamed “The Friendly City” or “The Windy City”. In 2019, the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Committee recommended that Port Elizabeth be renamed Gqeberha, after the Xhosa and Southern Khoe name for the Baakens River that flows through the city. The city’s controversial name change was officially gazetted on 23 February 2021. However the new name remained poorly used locally as of early 2022.

Located on the western portion of Algoa Bay along the southeastern coast of South Africa, the city lies 770 km east of Cape Town. It is east of the Garden Route and faces the Indian Ocean. It covers 251 square kilometers of the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area, South Africa’s sixth-largest metropolitan municipality. The city’s warm oceanic climate ranks it among the top cities in the world for pleasant year-round weather. The city is known for many blue-flag beaches along the city’s urban coastline; its popularity as an international and local holiday destination; and its rich and diverse cultural heritage. It is a gateway city for the Eastern Cape’s adventure, outdoor and African big five game safari tourism.

In 1820, the rising seaport of Algoa Bay was named “Port Elizabeth” in memory of Elizabeth Frances née Markham, the late wife of Rufane Shaw Donkin, acting Governor of the Cape Colony. Colonists also called the settlement “The Bay”. The settlement is also known by Xhosa speakers as “iBhayi” or “eBhayi”, a Xhosa adaptation of the Afrikaans name “die Baai”, meaning “the bay”.Gqeberha, the city’s official name since 23 February 2021, is a Xhosa word used to refer to the Baakens river, which flows through the city.

Cave sites in the area, such as Albany, Wilton and Howiesons Poort, have given their names to various archaeological cultures. The Howiesons Poort has been of particular interest to interpretations about the origins of fully modern human behaviour. Dating to 65,000 to 62,000 years ago, it has yielded extremely old evidence for bow-and-arrow hunting and shell-bead jewellery. Earlier and Middle Stone Age lithic material has been found in the Sundays River Valley, while at the important site of Amanzi Springs, 40 km north of the Port Elizabeth near Addo, Earlier Stone Age artefacts are found in situ with well-preserved plant and faunal remains within spring sediments (Deacon, 1970). There is Later Stone Age archaeological material preserved in caves and rock shelters, such as Melkhoutboom Cave, in the Cape Fold Belt Mountain surrounding Port Elizabeth (see Deacon and Deacon, 1963; Deacon, 1976; Binneman, 1997) and large numbers of coastal shell middens have been reported at Humewood, St Georges Strand and the Coega River Mouth (Rudner, 1968). Most recently, Binneman and Webley (1997) reported thirteen shell middens and stone tool scatters about 500 m east of the Coega River mouth in the archaeological assessment carried out for the development of maritime infrastructure for the Port of Ngqura. Importantly, some of this archaeological material was recorded in secondary context in the gravels from older river terraces along the banks of the Coega River.

Hunters and gatherers ancestral to the San first settled the area around what is now called Algoa Bay at least 10,000 years ago. Around 2,000 years ago, they were gradually assimilated by agriculturalist populations ancestral to the Xhosa people.

Under the Köppen climate classification, the city has an oceanic climate (Cfb). The area lies between the winter rainfall, Mediterranean climate zones of the Western Cape and the summer rainfall regions of eastern South Africa. Winters are cool but mild and summers are warm but considerably less humid and hot than more northerly parts of South Africa’s east coast. The climate is very even throughout the year with extreme heat or moderate cold rare.

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