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?
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.