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Essentially British Colonial in character, Pietermaritzburg is a city of contrasts. New blends with old in graceful harmony, nestling within a ring of green hills. It has a built environment of great quality and distinction, described by the Historical Monuments Council as “one of the most important high character cities in Africa.”
Strangely, the founding of the city of Pietermaritzburg (also called Umgungundlovo which means 'place of the elephant'), had nothing to with the British. In 1838, the Dutch-speaking Voortrekkers moved into Natal from the Cape and laid out a town between the Umsinduzi (Duzi to the locals) River and the Dorp Spruit (stream). They named it after their leader Pieter Mauritz Retief. But, over the years the letter ’u’ in Pietermauritzburg was discarded and, at the time of the town’s centenary in 1938, it was declared that the leader of the second trek into Natal, Gert Maritz, should also be commemorated and the city’s official name Pietermaritzburg which became the capital city of Natal after the Union of South Africa was constituted in 1910.
Pietermarirzburg is only 80 km inland from Durban on the major road route between the coastal harbour and the highveld cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. This has helped the city establish a strong industrial base with clothing and footwear manufacturing as well as food and aluminum production some of the biggest industries in the city.