If you go by the official version, then Johannesburg is twinned with two Indian cities: Delhi and Mumbai. But as you drive in, the largest city in South Africa, you realise that Johannesburg is more Mumbai than Delhi.
Yes, it has its leafy enclaves where the rich and powerful live behind electrified fences and round the clock security (“Armed response” say the ominous signs outside while others warn “If you see strangers near your driveway, please drive away”) but the bustle and energy of its business quarter is all too Mumbai. However, like Delhi, it has a balmy winter — during our summer — which is quite the perfect time to visit.
Unless, of course, you want to escape the Delhi cold in Joburg’s warm embrace this winter.
The mistake most visitors to Johannesburg make is that they treat it as a point of entry into South Africa, an easy transit to the spectacular coastline of Cape Town, the exhilarating wildlife of Kruger National Park, or even the rolling vineyards that dot the country’s landscape. But if you are flying into Johannesburg from India — Jet Airways operates a convenient connection from Mumbai — then stop over for a couple of days to sample what the city has to offer.
There is the obvious stuff, of course. We’ve all read about Soweto, the township of Nelson Mandela, in our history books. About how the SOuth WEstern TOwnship (shortened to Soweto) was founded to house the large Black population of Johannesburg in the apartheid era. But it is one thing to read about such stuff; quite another to experience it up close.
So, take a trip to Soweto, take a walk through the Mandela Family Museum, situated in the house where Madiba (as he is popularly known) once lived, to get a sense of the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s early life. Follow it up with a drive past Nelson Mandela’s present home in Houghton to see how things can change so spectacularly in a single lifetime.
The Apartheid Museum is well worth a visit if you’d like to experience a slice of the country’s history. But, of course, there is more to Johannesburg than monuments to the apartheid years.
It is a busy, bustling city with a buzzing night life, quite like Mumbai, and you can party late into the night on the streets of Newtown or Sandton downing South African wine and losing yourself in the hypnotic beat of Kwaito, the local music.
Wander out into the streets to get a sense of the city, but keep your valuables locked up in the hotel safe. Crime may be down of late but muggings are still fairly common and tourists are easy targets.
Note: Jet Airways flies from Mumbai to Johannesburg five times a week.
Johannesburg is located in the eastern part of South Africa, situated in the Highveld plateau. It has a subtropical climate.
There are a number of flights operating from India to Johannesburg such as Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Jet Airways, Air India and Turkish Airlines.
Must visit places include Museum Africa, Market Theatre Complex and Saturday flea markets. It’s convenient to travel in the city in buses and mini-buses.
You can also visit working gold mines near Johannesburg, such as Welkom, Evander, Carletonville, Klerksdorp and Orkney. However, you may have to write months in advance to secure permission.