The largest and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in South Africa is gearing up to host its annual Pride event on 1 October – so just what does Johannesburg have to offer the visitor, and is its reputation as a crime capital still relevant today?
Vast numbers of tourists never get close to experiencing Johannesburg’s offerings, as the city’s reputation as a crime-ridden metropolis encourages them to use it merely as a jumping-off point to the wild coasts and animals hundreds of miles away.
However, to miss out on Jo’burg would be to miss out on the commercial centre of South Africa – a host of theatres, cultural offerings and great restaurants.
The one-time gold mining town has faced some well-publicised demons – and there’s no doubt it still has its issues today – but the level of crime is also steadily improving thanks to the city’s new Metro Police force and the security cameras on almost every street corner.
Jo’burg Pride, the largest and oldest gay and lesbian event on the African continent, will be welcoming thousands of visitors on Saturday, 1 October 2011. Kicking off at Zoo Lake Sports Club, the famous Pride Parade will feature a host of colourful floats and thousands of revellers singing and dancing through the streets of Jo’burg.
Those taking part will be entertained along the way by local artists, DJs, street theatre performances, poetry, cabaret and comedy and there will also be hundreds of Pride stalls with all sorts of goodies on display and on sale, plus bars and some tasty local food.
Jo’burg’s relatively new Market Theatre Complex is well worth a visit, boasting the South African Breweries Museum, Workers Museum and MuseumAfrica – the latter charts the progress of the city from pre-gold rush days through to the apartheid era.
The township experience is also a popular trip, allowing visitors to experience what life is like in one of Johannesburg’s many sprawling townships. The best known township is Soweto, which is a monument to the fall of apartheid and a growing vibrant Black South African scene.
Soweto – which covers more than 120 square kilometres and is the unofficial home to four million people – was originally designed as a place to house Black mine workers and Blacks who served the Whites as workers and domestic help.
You can choose from a selection of organised tours around the township with guides, rather than attempting to go it alone. Outside the bustling city centre, Jo’burg’s surrounding areas offer beautiful parks and nature reserves and the Cradle of Humankind, where the remains of the first humans were found.
Visit www.joburgpride.org to read more about this year’s event.