It's that time of year again when the old, sleepy fishing village of Cape Town, or 'mini-Europe' as it's fondly known by the plethora of apartheid-guilt escape artists who call its leafy suburbs 'home', transforms like Cinderella into the world's favourite tourist destination. Now when I say 'transforms' I don't mean it in the Madiba magic, BEE, progressive, equalitarian, riding the wave of upward mobility from the townships to the city kind of 'transformation' we all know Cape Town's a bit kak at that. It's transformation is rather the kind of Hans und ze kids from Germany coming to look at ze mountains and snapping up some of ze prime beachfront property in between lunching on wine farms. A steady influx of foreign models, photographers and creative directors and their attendant film and photographic production teams fill the streets with nubile beauties, massive egos and tangible hubris. Gay tourists from around the world paint the town pink and by December the place is pretty much unrecognisable because of the much hated and feared yearly 'Vaalie migration'. Like wildebeests across the Serengeti, come December and the Gauteng dwellers leave the sanctity of their electric fence and pitbull protected corporate lives for their annual two weeks holiday. This makes Capetonians skittish because Jozites drive faster, are less socially inept and generally have more disposable income, and far less taste. Cape Town in season, simply transforms by having more people in town from around the world than Capetonians. People who are generally wealthier, better looking and more outgoing than your average self-consciously hobbled, clique-laagered Capetonian. The balance is tipped. The fat is in the fire and so the average Capetonian suburban schleb humps it to the Cedarberg or the Karoo, or Europe to escape the sacking of their little-Rome. While on the other side of iKapa the average township dwellers stays put, year in and year out. Seasons come and go. Hollywood visits and clever Capetonians charge fortunes for their houses, crafts and hamburgers, but nothing really changes in ekasi, save the ennuis of grinding poverty; a fire here, a rape and murder there. The Aaargus will be sure to tell you all about it, in true, 'shock horror' style.

But as long as you're not looking for affirmation of radical progress, or guilt free clubbing, Cape Town is a great place to jol in season. And hell why not, if there is one thing Cape Town is very good it, it's escapism. Caught between the mountain and the sea, so enraptured by all the beauty, it's easy to turn off the subconscious gnaw of privilege and party like it's your birthday. And while you could linger like a fart with the champagne and stiletto set at Rhodes House and Eclipse on any given night in season, the best parties are the ones you have to dress up for.

Of course I am talking of Cape Town's biggest rave, the celebration of diversity, tolerance and the embodiment of those core values in gay culture, The Mother City Queer Project. As MCQP's Andre Vorster puts it, 'this year we're celebrating a decade of fabulous costume parties along with the decade of democracy in SA. The inclusion of the "freedom of sexuality" clause in our new constitution was in part the inspiration for the MCQP event a reason to celebrate!'

MCQP is the Capetonian version of Rio's carnival, a massive themed costume party that annually goes all out to celebrate everything from freedom to our right to dress up silly and dance like a bell-end until the sun rises.

'A key ingredient in the MCQP concept is the conversion of public space into a themed party playground.' Says Vorster. 'The design and planning of the event relies on architectural tools to create the perfect environment.'

Picking up on Cape Town's transformation gap, this year's MCQP has initiated an integrated outreach programme. 'With the support of Triangle Project, the MCQP experience will reach up to 30 new gay and lesbian individuals from previously disadvantaged backgrounds in Cape Town.' Vorster explains. 'The group will participate in workshops covering all the various areas relevant to the MCQP event, such as the party theme and team concept, costume planning, team co-ordination etc. They will be exposed to the planning, marketing and pre-production of the party and toured around the venue to see everything coming together. On the night they will be transported to and from the Artscape Gardens to attend the party and receive an allowance to complete their MCQP experience.'

MCQP's Jungle Fever takes place on 18 December 2004 at Artscape Garden. And to crib directly from the flyer, 'Go Ape, Our Bush is Better, Tame your Tiger, De-flower a delicious-monster Dyke, Explore Galore, Climb on Jungle Jim, Frolic with a feather-boa constrictor, Feel De vine, Mingle with Moffies in the mist, Boogie in the Bundu, Man-eating plants guaranteed.'

Another thing Cape Town has become relatively famous for, amongst the world's mongers, hippies and esoteric, electronic music loving pixies, are the outdoor Trance Parties. Blessed with fabulous natural environments and a hot, dry summer, the Cape Town trance party scene has inserted itself as part of the global trance subculture along with destinations like Goa in India, Kho Pangaan in Thailand and lots of fields across Western Europe. Excitingly, trance parties are the preferred natural environment of a particularly shy and reticent species of Capetonian, who otherwise reside under windchimes and dreamcatchers in Noordhoek or on small holdings in Parow. Often written off as 'hippie kak' by upcountry types who mistake trance parties for Joburg style 'raves', the natural environment and depth of the subculture attracts trance-tourists from as far afield as Japan, Israel and the Americas. If psychedelics, trance music, stomping around in the dust and sleeping in a tepee village is your bag then check out the Vortex and Alien Safari events, or pick up a copy of Cape Town's trance zine, Movers & Groovers.

Being careful to avoid the Long Street crush and the generic house club vibes of the City Bowl, Cape Town boasts great live music, if you can find it. The music listings page of the M&G are always a good place to start. Look out for local bands like Freshlyground, Plush, Fokofpolisiekar, Moodphase5ive, Arno Carstens, 7 th Son, African Dope Sound System, Black Noise and a load of upcountry imports like Bongo Maffin, Tumi & The Volume, Fuzigish, 340ml, Zola, Johnny Clegg and co. Live music events in Cape Town often attract more diverse and integrated crowds, so they are a good bet for the apartheid guilt-afflicted, socially responsible nightcrawler. Probably the best live music venue in the city is Kirstenbosch Gardens, with their summer Sunday evening gigs. Chill on the lawn in the splendour of the marntin (Capetonian for 'mountain'), grooving to live local tunes in the late afternoon sunshine. Alternatively you can feel like a student, sip Klippies and Coke and rock an intimate gig at the Independent Armchair Theatre in Obz, mix it up with all the tourists to live Zimbabwean xylophones at Mama Africa on Long Street or catch any of the suburban subcultures, from Afrikaans straight-edge punk to Llandudno trustafarian reggae and militant street style hip hop from the Flats at The Mercury Live in Gardens, depending on who's playing.

Whatever you're into, Cape Town only rocks the international city status for three months of the year. Enjoy the nightlife while it lasts, Cinderella becomes a pumpkin at the end of February.

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