Paarl is a city with 191,013 inhabitants in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is the third oldest town and European settlement in the Republic of South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch) and the largest town in the Cape Winelands. Due to the growth of the Mbekweni township, it is now a de facto urban unit with Wellington. It is situated about 60 kilometres northeast of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province and is renowned for its haunting scenic beauty and deep viticulture and fruit growing heritage.
The Dutch East India Company under the leadership of Jan van Riebeeck established meat trading relationships with the Khoikhoi people on the Table Bay coastline. In 1657, in search of new trading relationships inland, Abraham Gabemma saw a giant granite rock glistening in the sun after a rainstorm and named it “de Diamondt en de Peerlberg” (Diamond and Pearl Mountain) from which Paarl is derived. Gabemma (often also spelled Gabbema) was the Fiscal (public treasurer) for the settlement on the shores of Table Bay. The “diamonds” disappeared from the name and it became known simply as Pearl Rock or Pearl Mountain.
The former headquarters of the wine industry in South Africa is also situated here.: This was the famous “Co-operative Wine Growers’ Association” (better known by its Afrikaans initials KWV). KWV became a South African institution that has acquired an international reputation based on its unique achievements and its imprint of quality on the local wine industry. Over the past decade, however, KWV has been privatized and no longer has an administrative role in the South African wine industry.
The Paarl Rock itself is these days a popular Mecca for rock climbers. However, in the pioneering period of rock climbing in South Africa, the mountain was ignored or shunned because its steep faces were so smooth and unfissured that climbers could find no place to attach “runners” or anchor points for belays. Nowadays protection is afforded by bolts in the granite and there are on Paarl Rock a few dozen spectacular, beautiful and very hard routes that attract the best climbers of the current generation.