A Little Piece of Fake Tuscany in Fourways

Last weekend I went to Montecasino. I went there to see a play: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which I enjoyed.

I also went because I wanted to experience Montecasino, described on its website as follows: “Known for being Gauteng’s number one entertainment destination, having being (sic) voted Best Casino, Best Entertainment Complex, Best Cinema Complex and Best place to take out-of-towners.” (Note to the Montecasino marketing team: You should work on your website. It sucks.)

Having lived in Joburg for a year and a half, I feel remiss in not visiting or writing about Montecasino until now. For better or worse, it’s a part of the city’s culture. But I must say, I’m at a loss for words to describe the place.

The inside of Montecasino is designed to look like a Tuscan village. In fact, Montecasino is at the corner of William Nicol and Witkoppen in the sprawling Jozi suburb of Fourways. I took this photo from the balcony of  Skoobs Theatre of Books (see below).

For those of you who have been to Las Vegas recently, Montecasino is easy to describe. It’s a poor man’s version of The Venetian Las Vegas, without the canal. (Montecasino does have a little fake stream though, with fake ducks.) Strangely, Phantom of the Opera is currently playing at both Montecasino and the Venetian.

The Monte (I’m sick of writing out the full name) is essentially a fancy mall where you can gamble, eat, shop, and see movies and shows. It’s the perfect destination for a person who is forced to travel to Joburg for some reason, but is afraid to actually go anywhere. You can stay at Montecasino and pretend that you are outside, sipping wine in an outdoor piazza in Tuscany. But really you are inside, at the mall, in South Africa.

The strange reflections above the “buildings” are the only tip-off that this “street” is indoors. 

The Monte also has a “real” piazza, which is actually outside. I’ve heard it’s lovely and has good restaurants. Apparently there is also a nice bird garden there. But it was pouring rain on the evening I went so I wasn’t able to experience the outside part.

I did, however, visit Skoobs Theatre of Books, which is one of the more interesting book shops I’ve been to lately. Described as a “state-of-the-art concept store”, Skoobs is huge, modern, and boasts a coffee shop, champagne bar (complete with piano-player), and an “interactive gaming area”. Skoobs is like Barnes & Noble, but with gambling and booze! What more could one ask for in a bookshop?

Skoobs.

One friend did put forth the observation that Skoobs “doesn’t seem to have many books”. I can’t comment on that observation as I was more interested in taking photos than book-shopping.

I can’t think of much more to say about the Monte. It’s a mall, it’s a casino, it’s a theatre, it’s a phenomenon. If you like Las Vegas and happen to find yourself in Joburg, or if you live in Joburg and have always wanted to know what Las Vegas is like, you should go to Montecasino. Otherwise I’d give it a miss.

Here are a few more of my favorite photos from the Monte.

A life-size plastic Native American (bottom-left), with a life-size plastic wolf in his lap, watches the world go by at the Monte.

Look up: There’s fake laundry hanging on a fake laundry line, under a fake night sky.

Nightlife at the Monte: A lone drunk girl dances to a lonely adult contemporary rock band.

Oh, and the Monte has a gun safe. ‘Nuff said.

Your gun will be safe at the Monte.

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34 Comments

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough March 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Hmmmm–doesn’t really look like my kind of place–except for the bookstore. Something tells me you might not be headed back there this weekend. Say hello to Smokey for me.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      Yeah, I think I would go back there to see a play again but that’s about it. It’s far away too — way up into the suburbs. Anyway, have a good weekend, Kathy 🙂

  • Reply Howlin' Mad Heather March 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    This is hilarious, and I’m an American who thought she’d seen everything in terms of tackiness. I especially like the idea of Skoobs. A bookstore with booze and gambling? I’m all in.

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Yeah, it’s refreshing to realize that Americans don’t hold a monopoly on tackiness in this world.

  • Reply Owls March 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Creepy….

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Yes, creepy in a fun kind of way.

  • Reply Derek Smith March 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    IT IS A DUMP – but so is the rest of the sad & sorry lot of themed Casino’s around Jozi. Unfortunately the best live theater venues are inside these complexes.

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      And you’ve got my country to thank for popularizing them!

  • Reply I'd Rather Be In Iceland March 2, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I’ve been there and also particularly noticed the gun safe! I presumed those were pretty standard in Joburg but maybe not.

    • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

      I’m guessing there probably are other gun safes around Joburg, but this is the first time I’ve seen one. (Or at least a sign for one.)

  • Reply eremophila March 2, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    If I arrived from outer space, how on earth would you explain this to me???????????
    Fred wants to know if there’s fake dogs there too?

    • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

      I’m sure there are fake dogs too, Fred. The Indian has a fake wolf!

  • Reply Tenney March 3, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Nothing wrong with a good fix of tacky every now and then. Like Howlin’ Mad Heather — I’m all in.

    • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Dad, when you come visit we’ll definitely go there.

  • Reply jeanie March 3, 2012 at 1:09 am

    And I remember in another life, you thought Vegas was kind of fun. But at least it had real sky.

    • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 9:50 am

      I do think Vegas is kind of fun! But after experiencing the real thing, Montecasino is a bit of a let down. And by the way, Vegas invented fake sky. The Venetian has it too.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish March 3, 2012 at 4:40 am

    I used to live in Vegas, but when I went back a year ago, I took one look at the obese hotels on the strip and the zip lines slinging tourists under the silly roof over downtown, and headed west to LA! This indeed looks like an even worse version. Real little desert towns with real little casinos, or real villages in real South Africa — those are worth seeing.

    • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

      There’s a zipline in Vegas now?? That’s something I’d like to see, actually 🙂

  • Reply Charles Visser (Chuckv) March 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    It would almost be fair to say that everything in Joburg is fake apart from its people (on my side of the town at least). They’re quite real, open and friendly.

    • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Chuck, thanks for the comment. What side of town do you live on? I have to say that I disagree with you wholeheartedly. I think Joburg — people, places, AND things — is a very real place. In fact there is more reality here than just about anywhere else I’ve ever been. Keep reading this blog and you’ll see 🙂

      • Reply Charles Visser (Chuckv) March 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

        You’re right of course. I was just feeling grumpy. I just love Joburg and especially Melville where I hang out most of the time. So I’m in your hood. I have subscribed to your blog.

        • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm

          Haha, we just overlapped comments on each other’s blogs. I subscribed to yours too. As this is Melville, I am certain we will encounter one another on 7th St. in the near future.

          • Charles Visser (Chuckv) March 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

            I’m looking forward to it… For more real things about Melville please read my latest post (just updated) and register your support for our vision for the Faan Smit Park.

          • 2summers March 3, 2012 at 3:41 pm

            Done and done! Can I also be listed as a local blogger on the MRA site? The site looks nice, by the way.

          • Charles Visser (Chuckv) March 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

            Consider it done.

          • 2summers March 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

            Thanks!

  • Reply Spiral Dreamer (Francis) March 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    I feel like a tourist walking those places when I look at your pictures and read about the place. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers March 4, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Thanks Francis. The best comment a blogger could wish for!

  • Reply Darren Smith March 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Gotta agree with Derek.The themed Casino’s around Jozi, and across the country are sad, sad places.
    Fake skies?
    In Jozi?
    When we get some of the most dramatic skies you can hope to see.
    Eeeuw. That’s just eeeuw.
    But such is life in the manufactured world of casinos. Did you know that along with the nicely manipulative lighting, that as fast as they pump out the cigarette smoke, they also pump in odours of spring, summer, autumn & winter … and other such manufactured seasons … sandle-wood to make you feel at home, or the scent of fresh flowers, to give you that summery buzz.
    All with a view to loosen your purse strings.
    Vegas, Monte, Sun City … they’re all the same. Sad places.
    But you can get great photos there … 😉

    • Reply 2summers March 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Wow, I didn’t know about the manufactured seasons. That’s interesting. And I never thought about the particular irony of the fake skies in Jozi, of all places. Funny.

  • Reply shahilj March 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I love your comment: “It’s the perfect destination for a person who is forced to travel to Joburg for some reason, but is afraid to actually go anywhere.” Brilliant! I actually don’t mind going to Monte actually. It is pretty close to my place and its a neutral venue with seriously GREAT food places and it has a cinema theatre which is cheaper than anywhere else (if you have a Monte card – which is free anyway!) But as you said, its not adventurous, its not offensive and it gives you an easy place to take somewhere where they won’t be blown away but won’t be terribly disappointed. If you do go back there, there is a food place called “Coconut Grove” in the fast food court. This shop was originally from Durban at a place called Blue Lagoon (better known as “Lugz”) which was a weekend, day and night, hangout spot for Indian people in Durban. After a heavy night out, either sitting around your cars at Lugz or after you’ve left a club, one of the most awesome things to do was go to Coconut Grove and have a Chilli Mutton Burger. The taste was brilliant. After they moved to Jozi (they now have outlets in Midrand, Randburg and Monte) I really expected the quality to change but nope – its still just as good. You should maybe give em a try if you’re craving some fast food. Although when they say hot, they really mean that its hot!

    • Reply 2summers March 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Shahil. You know, I ate at the food court when I was there (at Ocean Basket) and I saw Coconut Grove. I wondered what it was, as it seemed to be one of the only places in the food court that wasn’t an instantly recognizable national/international chain (Steers, Wimpy, Spur, KFC, etc.). Damn, wish we’d eaten there! We randomly picked Ocean Basket because we were a big group and it seemed like the easiest option. Next time, definitely. I’m sure I’ll be back, like it or not 🙂

  • Reply Lu March 6, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Montecasino is a bit of a weird place, isn’t it? I’ve only been a couple of times, myself – and wasn’t particularly enamoured with it. Mind you, I’m not particularly enamoured with malls at the best of times. This one just seems tacky-eclectic.. Even the rock & crystal shop does nothing for me… I swear there’s made-up polished stones in there… Fake, fake, fake!

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 9:04 am

      I didn’t even know there was a rock and crystal shop! Will have to look for that next time.

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