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The interview: We catch up with Table Mountain Aerial Cableway MD Wahida Parker

29 January 2019


Approximately 1 million visitors from across the world use the Cableway to reach the top of this iconic Cape Town landmark each year. Opened on 4 October 1929, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has a proud history of being completely accident-free. The cableway has been upgraded three times – in 1958, 1974 and 1997. The last upgrade saw the introduction of revolving floors to the cable cars, called Rotairs. We caught up with Cableway MD Wahida Parker recently for a quick Q&A.

So far, over 28 million people have used the cableway to reach the top of Table Mountain. What fascinates people about the experience?

It’s majestic. This is untouched, unspoilt beauty. You can’t get better than this. The mountain offers so much, there are so many stories. It’s so hard to get lost in Cape Town, the mountain is our compass. This mountain is a beacon of hope for us. What it offers you as an individual makes it special. Table Mountain represents a place where you can imbibe solitude, get closer to the universe and find that inner awesomeness that you’re looking for.

What does the mountain represent to you?

For me, I think biblically, no matter which religion you belong to, whenever man has been in crisis, they have gone to sit on a mountain and speak to God or seek that inner calmness and strength they are looking for, and that’s what the mountain represents to me.  Trust me, you don’t have to go to another country, you don’t have to follow the eat, pray, love philosophy – all you need to do is a book your ticket and experience all of it here, on top of this mountain.

You worked in the hospitality and entertainment industry for many years before taking up this role. What prompted the decision?

Taking up this role has been the most exciting venture I’ve ever embarked upon. For me, it was about a new experience. Every day is an adventure here. When I left Sun International, the objective was always to try to get into an industry where it involves people and has a buzz, that energy going for it. I knew what I didn’t want to do: to be in a corporate environment where I’m stuck behind a desk seven days a week. And obviously, having come from Sun International, where there are so many aspects to the job, the idea of going back to a normal 9-5 job was never going to work for me. So I think the gods smiled on me when this opportunity came along with very much the same underpinning aspects to it. And to top it all off, the fact that I am managing one of the world’s 7 Wonders of Nature. How amazing is that. I honestly don’t think one can top this.

Tell us about your first experience up the mountain.

I used to hike the mountain a lot, up Skeleton Gorge. That was the norm for my children and I. I have two sons and two nephews who regular used to visit over December. That was our main activity – hiking up the mountain. I went up in the cablecar many years ago. My memory of that experience is jaded as I had an issue with heights and control. People would ask why it is okay for me to climb the mountain, but not go up using the cablecar. It was simple, I wasn’t in control. But today, I enjoy the ride up and down and have had amazing experiences with visitors from cities across the world.

What are some of the new and exciting things you’re hoping to implement at the Cableway?

Our mission is to continuously enhance the visitor experience. One initiative I’d like to champion is to get locals and internationals to use our facilities. Table Mountain is one of the best places in the world to work. If a freelance writer, an entrepreneur or a lecturer wants some inspiration, they can come up the mountain. We have a beautiful wi-fi lounge up top, with space for you to work in. For the price of a ticket, you can have the most inspiring view in the world. You can sit there and absorb the beauty. For a ticket price of ZAR250, you can spend the day. Multiply the ticket price by a week and by a month, where can you get rental for that amount of money, with this view, anywhere in Cape Town or the world.

There’s also lots of opportunity to create events here. When we have the supermoon, for example, we could create an event out of it. We could sell a limited number of tickets to view the supermoon on that day, and if the weather is bad, you get a refund. We can’t keep saying that we won’t do events because the weather is unpredictable. Cape Town is filled with very spiritual people, everywhere you turn you see a yoga studio, why not do a sunrise yoga session with a limited amount of tickets? These are all things we’re looking at for the future. Even at the lower cable station, there is so much to do. This particular spot offers a beautiful space.

What do you enjoy most about living and working in Cape Town?

I grew up in this city. Studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and never ever left Cape Town, except for brief holidays. I love the city because it is so diverse. It is culturally so mixed up, it’s a great pleasure to live and work here. I say this as a Muslim woman, I’m proud. Everyone here knows concepts such as halaal and ramadaan, we are accepted. People here fast in solidarity with colleagues and friends. It is so symbolic of what Cape Town offers the world in terms of bridging those barriers. Having this wonder in our city, should make us beat our chest. It should reverberate across the country. As a city, we have so much to offer. It’s truly a blessing.

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