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Wolesely hood ornament

#Gauteng52, Week 17: The James Hall Museum of Transport

Welcome to Week 17 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 James Hall Museum of Transport. I was prepared to hate the James Hall Museum of Transport. The only thing I really knew about the James Hall Museum of Transport (which most Joburgers refer to simply as “the Transport Museum”) before I went was that it’s about cars. I have zero interest in cars. Also the first room of the museum makes a bad first impression — full of badly lit, dusty exhibitions — and I kind of wanted to leave within five minutes of arriving. The James Hall Museum of Transport, which looks underwhelming from the outside. A 19th-century carriage, complete with full-size plastic horses, in the “animal-drawn vehicles” collection. This part of the museum, which is the first room after the entrance, was a bit sad.  But I was with my friend Kate on our whirlwind tour of Joburg South, and neither of us had been to the Transport Museum before. We wanted to give the place a chance. And besides, admission was free. We persisted and in the end we […]

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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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Cosmos in Delta Park

#Gauteng52, Week 12: The Cosmos of Delta Park

Welcome to Week 12 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 Delta Park, which explodes with pink and white cosmos flowers every autumn. This #Gauteng52 post is cheating a little because I’ve been to Delta Park — a huge city park bordering the suburbs of Craighall Park, Blairgowrie, Victory Park, and Linden — before. But up until yesterday I had never been to Delta Park during cosmos season, which transforms this park into a totally different place. Fields full of cosmos in Delta Park. Cosmos are wildflowers that made their way to South Africa in contaminated horse feed during the Anglo Boer War; the flowers are native to the Americas. The cosmos took to the dry climate of the South African highveld and everywhere the horses fed, the cosmos grew. The flowers seem especially fond of ditches along rural South African roads and highways, and they grow like wildfire in Delta Park. Cosmos: Johannesburg’s Autumn Leaves March is the beginning of autumn in South Africa. We might not have the same abundance of fall leaves that I grew up with in America (there are some, but not […]

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Post box sign in Jeppe Post Office

Inside Joburg’s Historic Jeppe Post Office

There are sections of downtown Joburg where things are so chaotic and colorful and slightly scary that I find it hard to focus on any one thing. Such is the case at the corner of Jeppe and Kruis Streets, home of the Jeppe Post Office. Look here — a clothes shop entrance lined with dozens of curvy mannequin legs in tight-fitting jeans, packed so close together there’s hardly space to walk through. Look there — the hood of a car spread with 100 pairs of colorful flip-flops. Look here — a trolley piled high with oranges selling for a rand each. Look there — a man pushing a shopping cart full of bloody cow heads. Look here — a highjacked apartment building spilling garbage from every window. Look there — a newly restored, gleaming white office block with shiny black glass windows. Spaza shops, hair salons, honking taxis, muscular police vans, and a hundred people squatting, standing, walking every which way. A quick glimpse of Jeppe and Kruis Streets. My eyes dart from one thing and one person to another and my brain considers what or who I should or shouldn’t photograph, or whether I should even take my camera out of its bag at all. […]

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Elephant orphan with caretaker at DSWT, Karen

Baby Elephants, Hungry Giraffes, and Other Cool Stuff in Karen

Karen is a suburb of Nairobi named for Danish farmer Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Meryl Streep), author of Out of Africa. The area was developed on the site of Blixen’s early 20th-century farm, where Out of Africa was filmed. I spent two days of my weeklong trip to Nairobi exploring Karen, which is anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour (or more) from downtown Nairobi, depending on traffic. It’s an alluring place — quiet, heavily forested, scattered with colonial estates and shady tea gardens. I decided to write a separate post about Karen because it’s so different and far-removed from central Nairobi. Karen is also filled with great tourist attractions. Karen’s 6 Best Tourist Attractions Here are the six coolest things I did in Karen. 1) The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust If you like animals and have time to do one thing in Karen, visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). Baby elephants! DSWT is legendary in the animal conservation community — the first organization to raise orphaned elephant calves and integrate them back into the wild. Daphne Sheldrick, founder of the trust, developed a special a formula that substitutes for elephant breast milk and pioneered a process in which elephant calves are raised […]

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Colorful guy

#Gauteng52, Week 9: Kavady at the Melrose Temple

Welcome to Week 9 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 Melrose Temple, a 150-year-old Tamil temple in Joburg’s northern suburbs, during its holiest festival of the year. I’ve put off writing this post for a couple of weeks because I wasn’t sure where to start. First, the basics: The Melrose Temple, also known as the Johannesburg Melrose Shree Siva Subramaniar Temple, was founded around 1870 in what is now the Joburg suburb of Melrose. The original temple was built by ethnic Tamils who came from India to South Africa’s Natal colony as indentured laborers. When their indentured servitude ended, the Tamils migrated north and found work at a commercial laundry along the Jukskei River. (This was 20 years before the founding of Johannesburg.) The Tamils began to practice their faith on the land surrounding the laundry, and eventually the laundry’s owner gave them the land to build their temple. The temple remains in the same spot today. The Melrose Temple as it looks today — it’s been rebuilt a couple of times since 1870. I need to go back again sometime when […]

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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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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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Freedom Park Isivivane

#Gauteng52, Week 6: Pretoria’s Freedom Park

Welcome to Week 6 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 Freedom Park, a monument to those who fought and died in South African conflicts. South Africa, like most countries, has a complicated and tumultuous history. There are many fantastic, thoughtfully designed museums and memorials commemorating this history and I’ve been to most of them. But somehow Freedom Park in Pretoria eluded me until last month. Looking out over S’khumbuto, the main memorial at Freedom Park. Freedom Park was founded in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and based on a mandate by President Nelson Mandela, who said in 1999: “…the day shall not be far off, when we shall have a people’s shrine, a Freedom Park, where we shall honor with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we should experience the joy of freedom.” The park officially opened in 2007. I’ve been holding off on writing about Freedom Park because it’s a difficult place to describe. Unlike the more popular historical museums like the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pietersen Museum, and Constitution Hill, which present […]

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Inside Patisserie de Paris

#Gauteng52, Week 4: A Taste of Paris in Blairgowrie

Welcome to Week 4 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 Patisserie de Paris, a French bakery and café in the Jozi suburb of Blairgowrie. I’ve known for a long time about the French bakery off Conrad Drive in Blairgowrie. (By the way, I’m tempted to move to Blairgowrie, a Joburg suburb between Linden and Craighall Park, simply for the name. Blairgowrie! Pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. Love it.) I heard good things. But, as I’m sure I’ll say many times over this year, the #Gauteng52 challenge motivated me to finally give Patisserie de Paris a try. And boy, have I been missing out. Patisserie de Paris, The French Jewel of Blairgowrie The first thing I noticed, and liked, about Patisserie de Paris is its unabashed pinkness. I’m not a particular fan (or non-fan) of pink, but I like it when a place goes all-out like this. The walls are pink and the waiters are decked out head-to-toe in pink. The whimsical interior of Patisserie de Paris. Not normally my style, but in this place it just works. Even the books are pinkish […]

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