Having lived and worked in Joburg for about 38 years I know a thing or two about the city. It was the place of my first date, my first kiss and my first job.
Also known as Joburg or Jozi, as locals like calling it, it’s the second largest city in Africa, and the world’s largest ‘dry port’ – Joburg is the largest city in the world not built on a coastline or waterway. It is the economic hub of the country, the most affluent area, and is still the ‘el dorado’ of South Africa.
It boasts the biggest man-made forest in the world with over 10 million trees. This has many functions, not least of which is that it makes for a beautiful city, combats greenhouse gasses, and helps reduce noise in this ‘urban jungle’. This still amazes me, and I love nothing better than to look out over this ‘jungle’ in the spring and see all the splashes of purple of the jacarandas in bloom.
Joburgers tend to be rather possessive about their city. We’re teased by Durbanites and Cape Tonians as “vaalies*” who invade their cities at holiday time, but there is no better time to be in Joburg than in December when families make their annual pilgrimage to the coast. This makes the roads clear of pesky traffic, there is Christmas music in the air and people are more relaxed. Just stay away from the malls where those who have opted to stay in town congregate for movies, eating and shopping, making them busier places than at any other time of the year.
It is not an easy place to live in and needs real staying power. Personal safety is an issue. Irrespective of affluence, people surround their properties with high walls, barbed wire and electric fences. Those who can afford it pay for alarms and private armed response. Many people own guns.
And yet it has the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The best I’ve seen. The weather is idyllic with sunlight at least 300 days of the year. Access to the country is a mere 20-minute drive along great roads.
Some people stay because it is where the best paying jobs are. Others come and stay for family. Others stay because they’ve decided to adopt Joburg with all of its issues, quirkiness and diversity. And the born and bred Joburgers stay because it is home.
I’ve followed Heather at 2Summers for a while and is the source of all great info about Joburg. Her pics are amazing and she goes to places where I haven’t been to yet. If Joburg piques your interest, go on by and see Joburg through the eyes of “an American living in quirky Johannesburg”.
*vaalies – South African slang name given to Johannesburgers (and other inland residents) by residents of Durban and Cape Town (and other seaside towns). The word is derived from the name of the river that separates Gauteng province, the Vaal River, which is the border with the Free State. Before the new provincial structure, Johannesburg was in the old province of Transvaal (across the Vaal). Once you cross the Vaal River, you know you’re on holiday 😉