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africa

Tswaing Crater and lake

#Gauteng52, Week 18: Tswaing Meteorite Crater

Welcome to Week 18 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. About 200,000 years ago, a swimming-pool-sized rock crashed into South Africa. The collision created the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. Two thousand centuries later, the Tswaing Crater is a nature reserve in the far northern reaches of Gauteng Province. The Tswaing Crater is not to be confused with another nearby impact crater, the Vredefort Dome, which is thought to be the largest impact crater in the world and is about 166 times larger than Tswaing. (The Tswaing Crater is 1.8 kilometers, or just over a mile wide, and the Vredefort Crater is an unfathomable 300 kilometers wide.) Ray and I had been wanting to visit the Tswaing Crater together forever, and I’ve been really excited to feature it on #Gauteng52. Unfortunately our visit didn’t go as smoothly as planned and we didn’t experience the crater as fully as we’d hoped. I have some valuable tips to share that will make your visit to the Tswaing Crater more fantastic than ours was. The Tswaing Crater, looking way less impressive than […]

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View of Joburg from the top of Ponte City

In Transit: Hillbrow Above and Below

I’m about to leave South Africa for a few weeks, which always makes me feel weird. I woke up in a strange, sad mood today, mourning everything about the state of the world. I recognize the feeling now — it’s pre-transit melancholy. (Although there really are a lot of crappy things happening in the world right now, too.) This is going to be a momentous trip for a variety of reasons and I’ll be blogging about those reasons along the way. But before I go, I thought I’d throw out some momentous Jozi photos that I took earlier this month. I tagged along with some friends on a tour of Hillbrow and Berea with Dlala Nje, an organization based in Ponte City. I’ve blogged about Hillbrow, Berea, and Ponte City on many occasions but these places never get old. Dlala Nje has an apartment on the top floor of Ponte City. This is the view through the window of that apartment. Hillbrow has an incredible concentration of satellite dishes. Ponte City (the tallest residential building in Africa) has a hollow core. Here’s the view from inside the core, one of the most spectacular sights in Joburg. Sorry, one more. Fiver sketches inside the Ponte core. […]

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The Box Shop exterior

#Gauteng52, Week 11: A New Take on Vilakazi Street

Welcome to Week 11 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Box Shop, a shopping center and coffee shop on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Andile, a.k.a. @may_i_take_apicture, to talk about a new project he’s working on called Imagine Soweto. Andile is cycling 150 kilometers around Soweto and taking 150 pictures — about four pictures for each of Soweto’s 38 townships. Andile Bhala, a.k.a. the Man With the Red Bag, in his home township of Orlando West. Andile was looking for some advice on blogging for his Imagine Soweto project. I agreed to give him some in exchange for an introduction to a new place in Soweto for my #Gauteng52 project. We wound up having coffee at the Box Shop, a relatively new development built from shipping containers on Vilakazi Street in Orlando West. The Box Shop on Vilakazi Street. Vilakazi Street is legendary as the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners (President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) lived at the same time. Vilakazi is one of […]

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Sanza's jollof rice

Friday Night at the Yeoville Dinner Club

Sanza Sandile isn’t an average chef. Which makes sense, because Yeoville isn’t an average suburb. Looking down on Rockey Street from the Yeoville Dinner Club. Actually I’m not even sure Sanza calls himself a chef — if you ask him he’ll probably say he’s a cook or a journalist or a philosopher or an entertainer. He’s all of those things and more. But above all, as I see it, this man is a chef. Sanza’s story is best told by Sanza himself and trust me, he will tell it to you. His food is as much about story-telling as it is about cooking. I’ll run through things briefly: Sanza came of age as apartheid ended and South African democracy began. He went to university, became a radio journalist, but all the while he cooked. He spent most of his adulthood in Yeoville, which was a gathering place for South Africa’s black intelligentsia in the 1990s and early 2000s. Over the past two decades Yeoville has become an African melting pot, with immigrants flooding in from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places. Many of Sanza’s peers left Yeoville and relocated to wealthier suburbs like Melville, which Sanza calls Smellville. Sanza […]

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Girls at the top of Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi

10 Insider Tips for Nairobi

I spent seven days in Nairobi. I didn’t go to the Maasai Mara, or Mombasa, or Mount Kilimanjaro or any of the other places that tourists usually fly or drive to after passing briefly through Kenya’s capital city. I suppose living in Johannesburg, which tourists also tend to quickly pass through on their way to somewhere else, has given me an appreciation for African cities. I made Nairobi my sole destination and spent a full week getting to know it. The Nairobi skyline at dusk, viewed from the top of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) downtown. I booked a flight on frequent flier miles and a cheap apartment on Airbnb. Other than that I did zero preparation before my trip, and relied solely on recommendations from my friends once I arrived in Nairobi. My good friend Michelle lives there, along with some colleagues and Instagram buddies. They all made suggestions and took me to some of their favorite places. The result was an extremely enjoyable week. Here are ten cool things that I did in Nairobi, virtually none of which I would have done without the recommendations of my local friends. (Note that I’m going to write a separate post about Karen […]

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Lungi holds raspberries at Field Berry Farm

#Gauteng52, Week 8: Picking Raspberries in Joburg South

Welcome to Week 8 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Field Berry Farm, a raspberry farm in Joburg’s far south. This will be a quick #Gauteng52 post as I only visited this place briefly. But I need to tell you about Field Berry Farm before raspberry-picking season is over. Raspberries from Field Berry Farm. By the way, did you know that the word “raspberry” has a p in it? I didn’t, until I started writing this post and noticed the autocorrect when I typed “rasberry”. A Quick Visit to Field Berry Farm I stopped by Field Berry Farm a couple of weeks ago with my friend Kate, who grew up in the south of Joburg and was giving me a tour of the area. Joburg’s southern suburbs are vast, incorporating densely populated urban areas, bucolic farmland, and everything in between. (I’ll have more Joburg South posts coming soon.) We followed Kate’s GPS along a winding country road and found ourselves in a gravel parking area, with a small warehouse to the right and a large field covered by shade netting to the left. A […]

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Rabbi Nathan Obiekwe at Bethel Messianic on Yom Kippur

#TheGodProject: Nigerian Jews in Joburg

There is a congregation of Nigerian Jews in Joburg. Who knew? Rabbi Nathan Obiekwe of the Bethel Messianic Assembly in Yeoville. I first visited the Bethel Messianic Assembly in October, to take photos for my friend Marie-Lais’ “Other Side of the City” column in the Citizen. Marie-Lais and I showed up unannounced, but fortunately the door was open. “What religion are you?” asked the man at the door. “I’m Jewish,” I said proudly, figuring my religious heritage would give us a foot in the door. The man led Marie-Lais and me inside and introduced us to the rabbi, Nathan Obiekwe. Rabbi Nathan greeted us warmly and we sat down for a chat. On our way through the outdoor passage that led to Rabbi Nathan’s lounge, I noticed a large room filled with people, all lying on the floor. Rabbi Nathan in the lounge of his home. The house doubles as the Bethel Messianic synagogue. Note that the rabbi is holding a bible in his hand — this congregation reads frequently from both the old and new testaments. “Why are there so many people here on a Wednesday morning?” I asked the rabbi after a few minutes of small talk. Rabbi Nathan looked at me curiously. “Today […]

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Pink roses at the Multiflora Market

#Gauteng52, Week 7: Johannesburg’s Multiflora Market

Welcome to Week 7 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Multiflora Market, a massive wholesale flower market east of downtown Joburg. I love taking photos in warehouses and factories and the Multiflora Market had been high on my list for a long time. But you have to go at the crack of dawn to catch the action, and it’s not easy to drag oneself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to look at flowers. Luckily the #Gauteng52 project finally gave me the motivation I needed. The Multiflora Market was founded in 1944 and is the largest flower market in Africa. Every morning before dawn, farmers from across South Africa ship boxes and boxes of fragrant blooms into this warehouse, where they go up for auction and get shipped out again to florists, grocery store chains, and even the guys who hawk flowers at street intersections. Buyers come to the Multiflora Market from all over Joburg, South Africa, other African countries, and even Europe. Cartloads of flowers lined up for auction in the Multiflora warehouse. Stopping to Smell the Roses at the Multiflora Market […]

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View of Joburg from Ansteys

Johannesburg, 13 Floors Up

Yesterday my friend Ted invited me to check out the flat he just bought on the 13th floor of the Anstey’s Building. Anstey’s is a legendary art deco high-rise in the center of downtown Joburg. A shot of the back of Anstey’s (the building in the middle) I took about four years ago from a rooftop on Rissik Street. Anstey’s was built in 1935. I’ve written about Anstey’s twice before (see here and here) so no need to repeat myself. I’ll just show you yesterday’s pictures. The views from Anstey’s are, for lack of a better superlative, epic. The view from Ted’s 13th-floor bay window. View toward the west. View toward the northeast. Colorful taxis queuing at a traffic light. I love the massive graffiti piece above that building across the way. It was painted by Tapz, Joburg’s most prolific graffiti writer. Woman in a window across the street. I’m told the white building is beautifully renovated but the pink building next door, as you can see, is empty. This is a common sight in downtown Joburg. If you’d like to learn more about the Anstey’s Building, it has its own Facebook page. There is also an art gallery in Anstey’s, called the 13th […]

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Moving Feast meal in Alexandra Township

Discovering South African Food in Alexandra Township

If you browse through the food-related posts on this blog, you’ll notice that most of them are written about food from places other than South Africa: French, American, Mexican, Indian, German, Chinese. But what about South African food? Traditional South African food can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Colonialism and apartheid are to blame for this. I think even most South Africans would struggle to describe South African food, just as I do when people ask me about it. My usual answer is, “…South Africans love meat.” (Cape Malay cuisine, mostly found in Cape Town, is an exception to this rule. Read about Cape Malay food here and here.) Anyway, my perceptions of South African food widened last Friday when I participated in the Alex Culinary Tour by Tour2.0. We ate our way through Alexandra Township, starting with the humblest street food and working our way up to serious fine dining. A takeaway shop in Alexandra Township, otherwise known as Alex. Our first stop was Mbopha’s Café, a takeaway joint on 3rd Avenue in Alex. Eating a Sly Vat-Vat “Sly” is a slang term for a slice of bread. “What-what”, or “vat-vat”, are filler words to replace something that is […]

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Guy in Hillbrow

10 Photos of “Our Hillbrow”

I train at the Hillbrow Boxing Club and I’ve been going there three mornings a week, every week, for the past five years. I used to go to the gym with a bunch of friends, but for the last several months it’s been mostly just me. I drag myself out of bed at 6:00 a.m., plunge my tiny car into the riot of taxis on Claim Street, wind boxing wraps around my hands, and exhaust myself for an hour with my coaches, George and James. This thrice-weekly ritual is an essential part of life for me. Boxing, and Hillbrow, have seeped into my veins. Me and George Khosi, founder of the Hillbrow Boxing Club. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond) I spend more time alone in Hillbrow than I used to, driving and running up and down the parking lot of the boxing club. I see more and I think more. In a city full of complicated, confounding, rapidly changing spaces, Hillbrow is the most complicated and confounding and rapidly changing of all. I’ve written about Hillbrow many times (here’s my first post from March 2011), but I struggle to fully explain what it is, or what it feels like. Hillbrow is different from the rest of Joburg — the people are different, the buildings […]

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Mohan Hira at Tolstoy Farm

#Gauteng52, Week 3: Communing with Gandhi at Tolstoy Farm

Welcome to Week 3 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Tolstoy Farm, where Gandhi lived in the early 20th century, near the far-flung township of Lenasia. Mahatma Gandhi lived in South Africa for more than 20 years, from 1893 to 1914, and he founded the Satyagraha (passive resistance) movement here. Gandhi spent much of those two decades in Johannesburg and there are monuments all over the place — in Gandhi Square, at Constitution Hill, and at the Gandhi museum in Satyagraha House. I’ve visited most of them but I’d never visited Tolstoy Farm. I couldn’t figure out where it was. The entrance to Tolstoy Farm as it appears today. The land is owned by a brick company, Corobrik, which explains the nice brick wall. Gandhi lived at Tolstoy Farm (named for Russian author Leo Tolstoy) from 1910 to 1913. The land was purchased by Hermann Kallenbach, a close friend and follower of Gandhi’s, and they ran a commune of sorts on the farm. The farm is located near modern-day Lenasia, the township 30 minutes south of Joburg where the apartheid government forcibly removed the city’s Indian […]

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