The quaint little village of Elim, situated halfway between Gansbaai and Bredasdorp is the oldest village in the Strandveld. Founded by Moravian missionaries in 1824, and largely inhabited by members of the Moravian Church, Elim’s brief biblical name comes from Exodus 15:27. The Israelites, after crossing the Red Sea “came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.”
On entering Elim, the visitor is welcomed by fruit trees, fynbos, and the charm of the historic whitewashed cottages. Most of these buildings date back to the nineteenth century. However, as time goes by, the local community tends to build more modern houses with painted walls and corrugated iron roofs.
All roads in Elim lead to the beautiful Moravian Mission Church, and, should you pass through Elim on a Sunday, you will be welcome to attend a church service. These are held at 10h00 and the traditional Elim Brass Band plays here as well as at selected festivals in the area. The church clock dates back some 240 years and still keeps good time. Although acquired for Elim in 1914, the clock has been working since 1764 when it was built in Germany for a church in Herrenhut. A memorial thanking God for the emancipation of the slaves in 1838 stands near the church.
As you walk through Elim’s narrow streets, be sure to visit the local heritage centre where you will glean further information about the town’s history. Of further interest is the village’s restored corn mill, built in 1828, which has the largest wooden water wheel in the country – and in the same complex is a small restaurant where visitors can enjoy tea, coffee or lunch.
The Moravian community consists of farmers, farm workers and artisans. Elim thatchers are particularly skilled and renowned for their craftsmanship and the area is becoming well known for the cultivation of vineyards and the export of fynbos (the rarest in the world).
The entire village of Elim has been declared a National Heritage Site.