Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg was established in 1886 after gold was discovered there.  The city is also known as Joburg, Jozi, and Egoli.  It is home to 4,34 million people, with +7,86 million people in the greater metro area, making it the biggest city in South Africa.

Johannesburg started off as a small village in 1886.  The population expanded rapidly after gold was discovered nearby.  It became a city in 1928 and in 2002 it joined with other municipalities to become the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.

The Central Business District is the densest collection of skyscrapers in Africa.  It's not the safest area there is.  Many of the buildings are unoccupied or have been taken over by squatters.  Efforts have been made to turn the area around.  The general rule is to get out of the area before it gets dark.

The Maboneng District is on the southwest side of the CBD.  It's the artsy, groovy, hipster area and it's one of the few successfully rejuvenated areas of town.

The Hillbrow Tower is a 270 metres (886 feet) tall telecommunications tower that was built in 1971.    Until 1978, it was the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere.  The rotating restaurant at the top closed in 1981 because of security concerns in the local area.

The Brixton Tower opened in 1962.  It is 237 metres (778 feet) tall and was built as a radio and television tower even though public television didn't start until well after a decade from the tower's opening.

Ponte City was built in 1975.  At a height of 173 metres (568 feet), it is the tallest residential building in Joburg.  It was once a posh place to live until the crime rate soared in the late 1980s and gangs moved into the building in the 1990s.  The building's core filled with rubbish that was five storeys high.  There have been significant efforts to clean up the area.


The Carlton Centre is a 50 floor skyscraper and shopping centre.  It is 223 metres (732 feet) and since 1973 is has been the tallest office building in Africa.  On the 50th floor is the Top of Africa with great views of the city.

Although Joburg isn't one of the country's three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court located at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein.  Next to the court is the Old Fort Prison complex where both Ghandi and Mandela served time.

Government Square was renamed Mahatma Ghandi Square when the square was refurbished in 2002.  Ghandi lived in Johannesburg, as a young lawyer, from 1903 to 1913.

There's a 6 metre (20 feet) tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.  The statue was erected in 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the country's first democratic elections.  The statue stands in front of the largest retail complex in Africa.
Soweto, "South-Western Township", was a separate city from the late 1970s.  Located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, this is where blacks lived during Apartheid. 

The Soweto Uprising, on 16 June 1976, was a mass protest against the government's policy requiring education to only be in Afrikaans.  This was the world's first glimpse of life under Apartheid and let to countries imposing economic sanctions against South Africa.

The Hector Pieterson Museum opened in 2002 and was one of the first museums in Soweto.  It is dedicated to the events before and after the Soweto Uprising.

The Orlando Power Station was decommissioned in 1998.  The coal-fired power station provided power to the white residents of Johannesburg while the residual pollution remained in Soweto.  Today the towers are used by advertisers and the towers are a popular place for bungee jumping.

Mandela House, officially the Nelson Mandela National Museum, is the house he lived in from 1946 to 1962.  The house was built in 1945 and it was declared a National Heritage Site in 1999.  

The Tutu House is the family home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The house is not open to the public.

Both houses are on Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world where two Nobel Laureate have lived.

FNB Stadium is also known as Soccer City.  It is also called the Calabash because it resembles the traditional African pot.  It originally opened in 1989 and it was renovated in 2009 in order to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup final.  Unlike many of the football stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup, this stadium is still actively used.

The Apartheid Museum opened in 2001.  The whole focus is 20th century South Africa.  

Under Apartheid, all individuals were classified as "white", "native", "coloured" or "Asian".  All visitors to the museum are randomly assigned a race and then you enter the museum through the appropriate entrance.

The Lion Park is a 600 hectare (1483 acre) wilderness reserve.  

It makes for a great mini safari and an opportunity to see lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, and wild dogs.  There's also the opportunity to pet a cheetah and a lion cubs.

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