Waseelah Salie’s merry laugh draws me to the Shop at the Top, a pretty stone building on the summit of Table Mountain. The shop is filled with many collectable keepsakes, some made by local artists and job-creation organisations.
She starts singing one of my favourite tunes, Welcome to Cape Town, the song originally sung by Nur Abrahams and much loved by many of the Cape Minstrel troupes.
I hear someone else say: “Welcome to Table Mountain, the New7Wonder of Nature, and now, let us entertain you!”
It’s a Saturday morning and Salie is one of four women who are working here today, each bringing their own brand of humour and grace to the Shop at the Top, and going beyond their duty to ensure customers, whether they are there to buy or browse, leave happy.
Salie loves her job. She says with a great deal of satisfaction: “Can you imagine coming up in the cable car every day? No matter how many times I have come to work, the view takes my breath away. I work on top of the world, and I love it!”
A voice pipes up: “You are very, very lucky to work here.” It’s a tourist, on his first time up the mountain, he says. “It’s a pity about the weather, but at least I can buy some gifts here, and at least I’ve been up Table Mountain.”
Salie is engaging and funny. She sings Happy Birthday to a customer, jokes about her hair “mincing” in the weather, and shows off a non-slip cup to another visitor, who ends up buying a number of curios and Table Mountain-branded gifts. Customers lining up to pay for their goods laugh along merrily, and locals immediately catch on to Salie’s colloquial tone and her brand of Cape Town humour.
It is a cloudy day on the mountain. Gaps in the bank of white cloud give visitors a glimpse of the views of Cape Town, which is home to Salie, and her colleagues on this day, seasonal worker Shadia Nyota, team leader Nuhraan Davids and Nosiphiwo Kabaiqheya.
The Shop at the Top prides itself in showcasing the work of local artists and job-creation projects. Many of the goods in the shop are made from re-purposed goods, and form part of the Cableway’s commitment to responsible tourism.
Zimbabwean-born Yvettie Munava makes beautiful beads from discarded cardboard, which the Cableway collects for her from its recyclables, and she sells her line in the shop. Nyota is happy to show off a beautiful neckpiece made by Munava, and readily gives the history of the piece.
Nyota is a seasonal worker at the Cableway and studies tourism at a local college. I enjoy her low, melodious voice and could listen to her for a long time. Just to enjoy hearing her speak some more, I find myself following her down an aisle as she makes her way to a customer. She points out interesting goods, lifts up a bright orange place mat and points to a matching, handmade tablecloth.
As more visitors to the mountain file into the shop, the homely atmosphere encourages them to browse, while learning about the origins of the goods on display. Davids, the team leader, has worked for the Cableway for 10 years. Her experience comes in handy when customers have any questions, be it about the Shop at the Top or any of the other retail outlets on top of Table Mountain.
Nosiphiwo Kabiqheya smiles broadly at customers as she rings up sales. She has worked in the shop for two years. Even though the quietest of the quartet, she does join in the singing and the joking. A flash goes off as a tourist starts snapping photographs. Their smiles give way to merry laughs.
I choose a number of goods and try to stay in the shop for as long as possible, revelling in the mood. My heart bursts with a pride I’m sure only a Capetonian can feel, knowing that the ladies in the Shop at the Top are ambassadors for the city and the glorious mountain.