History and background of the city of Port Elizabeth
The nomadic San were the earliest group of indigenous people known to live in the Eastern Cape. The Khoi displaced the San into the mountains and semi-desert area early in the second millennium AD.
The first European to set foot in Algoa Bay was Bartolomeu Dias who was brought to the area while on a journey of discovery to find a route to the East. He rounded the “Cabo da Roca” (Cape of the Rock) in February 1488 and entered “Baia da Roca” (Bay of the Rock). Dias also gave the name “Ilheus Chaos” (Flat Islands) to the Bird Island group while on this voyage.
Another Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, also entered the area in 1497. Cape Recife was named “Cabo do Arricife” (Cape of the Reef) by da Gama. The "Bay" was later named "Baia de Lagoa", by navigator and cartographer Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo in 1576.
In 1820, 4000 British Settlers arrived by sea to become the first permanent British residents in the Albany District. On 6 June 1820, Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony at the time, named the new sea port in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth has become a commercial hub with a bustling port. The main industry in the city is the motor industry while the harbour is used for, amongst other, the export of cars, fruit and mohair. The tourism industry also plays an important roll in the city as it is a major coastal destination for domestic holiday makers with its beautiful beaches and unspoiled coastline. Surrounded by world class game reserves like Addo Elephant National Park - the only Big 7 game reserve in the world - and the award winning Shamwari Private Game Reserve as well as being at the end of the world renowned Garden Route, Port Elizabeth is also a popular destination for international visitors.
Port Elizabeth, along with the towns of Uitenhage, Despatch and Colchester, make up the metropolitan area known as Nelson Mandela Bay. and is the only city in the world that was allowed by the former president to bear his name. The estimated population of Nelson Mandela Bay comprises over 1, 5 million, making it South Africa's fifth largest city in terms of population and the second largest in terms of area.