Although it’s known as the city of gold, I prefer to think of Johannesburg as the city of all colours. Blame it on pollution, but the sunrises (and sunsets) set the sky alight. Fiery oranges and reds, mixed with delicate pinks and lilacs, splash across the heavens to welcome and say goodbye to each day.
The perfect spot to take in a picturesque sunset is at Melville. The trendy suburb is located between two universities and is well known for its nightlife. Seventh Street is littered with pubs and restaurants. Six (www.sixcocktailbar.com), a cocktail lounge, is about as wide as the average passage. Space constraints mean you are likely to find yourself seated next to a complete stranger, but the manager is known to hand out free chocolate cake shooters at whim and, after a few of those, everyone is friends.
City lights: The Johannesburg skyline. South Africa Tourism
If that cramps your style, though, hop next door, to Unplugged. This bar (telephone 0027-11-4825133) moonlights as a club where Beyoncé tops the pop charts. When the party gets out of hand—as I’ve often seen it do—there’s Catz Pyjamas (www.catzpyjamas.co.za) a few streets away. It’s open 24 hours and makes the most delectable pizza.
When daylight approaches one can pop over to Braamfontein, for a more sombre experience at Constitution Hill (www.constitutionhill.org.za). It houses the notorious Old Fort Prison—also known as Number Four—where Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were jailed during the apartheid era. Now, it is home to the Constitutional Court, the guardian of human rights in the country’s new democracy.
The inner city isn’t all about troubled history, it is also a celebration of Africa. The Small Street Mall (Small Street, Braamfontein) is a great place for traditional African clothing, beaded jewellery, wire ornaments and mixed-media paintings. The adventurous can have their hair braided by an African hairstylist.
Johannesburg, or Jozi, is frequently described as the world’s largest man-made forest. A park worth a visit is The Wilds, in Houghton (www.jhbcityparks.com/find-a-park/the-wilds.html). Although the terrain is quite hilly, a walk provides breathtaking views of the city. Gillooly’s Farm (Boeing Road West, Bedfordview; telephone: 0027-11-4538066), to the east of the city, is another great picnic spot and also has one of the finest Cape Dutch farmhouses. The jazz and blues café at the park often has a local guitarist and saxophonist entertaining the crowds.
Of course, nothing ends a day like a refreshing drink, and for that, certain historic pubs stand out. The Radium Beer Hall (www.theradium.co.za), the oldest pub in the city at 80, has a rich history, having doubled as a shebeen during the apartheid era, selling liquor to black customers when it was illegal.
For something a little more decadent, there’s Rose Boys (Corner Oxford and Corlett Drive, Illovo; telephone: 0027- 82-466 9162). I love the décor here—classic Renaissance mixed with Havana influences. Patrons are encouraged to dance on the tables to the sing-along music and, as the night wears on, even the waiters join in. Be warned, this is a popular venue and fills up quickly. Fittingly, in this city of colours, even the pavement outside Rose Boys is painted a beautiful blush pink.
The Nelson Mandela Square. Alexander Joe / AFP
Come to Jozi. Colour your life.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg.
YOU CAN’T GO TO JO’BURG AND SKIP…
Cradle of Humankind: An hour’s drive away in the Sterkfontein area, this is where early man is supposed to have taken his first upright steps. The rocky, hilly area is chock-a-block with dolomite caves containing hundreds of fossils of animals, plants and, yes, hominids. One of South Africa’s earliest World Heritage Sites, only two of the caves here—Sterkfontein and Wonder—are open to the public. Visit www.cradleofhumankind.co.za for details.
Pilanesberg Game Reserve:
Just in case you can’t make it to Kruger (4 hours away by road), Pilanesberg, located in the crater of an extinct volcano about 2 hours from Jo’burg, is a good alternative destination for a taste of the wild. The fourth largest park in South Africa is home to almost every regional mammal, including the Big Five. Both self-drives and guided tours are available. Visit www.pilanesberg-game-reserve.co.za for details.
Premier Diamond Mines, Cullinan:
East of Pretoria lies the “blue sky” region, whose mines yielded the biggest rough-gem quality diamond ever discovered. The Cullinan diamond or the First Star of Africa is part of the British Crown Jewels, but you can still do an underground tour of the mines and also witness the cutting and polishing of stones at the same complex. Bookings are mandatory. Visit www. cullinanmeander.co.za
PARTY HERE ON 31 DECEMBER…
Because 2010 has everyone all excited all ready: South Africa hosts the Fifa World Cup here in June, and Jo’burg, with two stadiums, will be one of the primary theatres of action. To celebrate, join the grand street party hosted by the city at Mary Fitzgerald Square, now in its fifth year. The concert begins at 6pm and continues till 2am. Entrance is free.
If that’s too déclassé for you, go for the grand buffet at La Belle Terrasse Restaurant at The Westcliff, an Orient Express group hotel, which has a Great Gatsby Tops and Tails dress code. Expect a live DJ and dancing after dinner, which will include glazed hams, suckling pig, lobster thermidor and all the frills. Entrance costs R750 per person. Bookings essential at restaurantreservations@ westcliffe.co.za or call 0027-11-4816009.
NEED MORE REASONS TO BE IN JOZI?
SA Ballet theatre
Pinocchio, the story we all loved as kids, comes alive in pantomime from November through 3 January. www.saballettheatre.co.za/whatson.html
Gerard Sekoto Youth Festival
Hosted by the Johannesburg Art Gallery, this is a festival dedicated to the late artist Gerard Sekoto. Events include an artists’ conference, film and theatre workshops, puppet shows and poetry reading sessions. On 16 December. Visit www.joburg.org.za/
On display everyday till 24 December, this art exhibition hosted by Museum Africa celebrates the lives and works of Maria Stein-Lessing and Leopold Spiegel, who left behind an important legacy in African and South African art. Visit www.joburg.org.za/content/view/3886/193/
Meet Extreme Adventures
If art galleries and museums is not your idea of an exciting Sunday morning, try this. Every Sunday till 31 December, the Meet Extreme Adventures club will allow you to try out bungee jumping, rock climbing and scuba-diving. Visit www. meetextremeadventures.co.za/
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