- Eastern Cape
- Riebeek East
When the need for a local church arose the Dutch Reformed Church established the village of Riebeek East on the farm Mooimeisiesfontein - meaning pretty girls fountain - the home of the famous Voortrekker leader Piet Retief.
The British government turned down an initial request in 1826 but the second in 1830 was granted and in true South African tradition, a town grew up around the church. The farmers in the area had formerly trekked roughly 130 kilometres to Uitenhage for Nagmaal (communion services). Piet Retief was a Voortrekker leader of some distinction who graced school history books during the apartheid era due to his involvement in negotiating land deals in KwaZulu Natal for his people, until his unexpected assassination at the hands of Dingaan and his warriors.
The little village of Riebeek East was virtually lost in time such that, if it weren’t for the growing interest in eco-tourism in this part of the country and it’s proximity to both Grahamstown and the Addo Elephant National Park, it would have remained in obscurity.
Riebeek East is today largely a game and sheep farming community. This part of the country has a strong conservation ethic in an attempt to reverse the killing of much of the local wildlife of the area and is the only place in Africa with malaria-free Big Five game viewing opportunities and a range of public and private nature reserves span the area, including Shamwari Game Reserve and the Addo Elephant Park.
The town lies in the vicinity of archaeological sites showing cultural activity that predates many claims world-wide. A number of ancient sites and rock art are found in the area and tours through this ‘valley of ancient voices’ can be arranged.
Grahamstown and its annual Arts Festival is not far from here, and the surrounding hills of Riebeek East offer a number of hiking trails through diverse and beautiful hills.
For over a century the unwritten law of Voortreker leader Piet Retief that no liquor should be sold in the small village of Riebeeck East stood firm. However this came to end in 2008 when the Knoesen family relocated from the Salem district to this scenic small village and opened a bar.
The family operate the Kleingenoeg Mini Market – the only shopping outlet in this tiny village to which the bar, liquor store and a restaurant is linked. The village’s post office also resides here. The arrival of the Knoesens in this sleepy village brought to an end the locals’ thirst for a cold one. However not everyone was pleased with the idea of a liquor outlet at first and especially the fact that this would go against Piet Retief’s will.
Dewalt said they were also planning to start a mountain biking trail along the village mountain as a form of promoting tourism in the area.
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