Johannesburg ~ bustling, gritty, and complex

Johannesburg, South Africa is a bustling, gritty, urban city full of creative individuals and entrepreneurs. On the surface it seems like any other urban city, but as we drove around various neighborhoods the common theme was that all the houses had tall walls with barbed wired at the top. They look like compounds –- and everyone has one. It was a little forbidding at first but speaks to Johannesburg’s crime issues. So if you have plans to go –- pay for taxis and be aware of your surroundings. That being said, I enjoyed Johannesburg; people were friendly, and there was a lot to see and do including art & culture, history, shopping and fabulous dinning options.

We stayed at a guest house on the hill in the Melville district – the views were spectacular and it was a short walk down to Third street, which has a good amount of restaurants and a handy grocery store with a nice deli. Also, the popular Seventh Ave area is a short taxi ride away. It is packed with wonderful restaurants, bars, and boutiques with wares made by local artists. While I did purchase a good amount of items from street vendors, such as beaded jewelry, bowls, art and carved items – the boutiques are more upscale and carry gorgeous clothing, jewelry and house wares.

Johannesburg is full of great restaurants. We found ourselves on Seventh Ave quite often – I had sushi, Indian, African and Mediterranean. But on of my favorite restaurants was The Lucky Bean — amazing. They have a lot of veggie options as well as oxtail soup, springbok pie, ostrich burgers and many other adventurous options. Most restaurants had a good mix for carnivores and veggie lovers, which is very helpful when traveling in a large group. One group dinner was at Moyo, a traditional South African restaurant. It was winter in South Africa and very cold, even inside the restaurant. Luckily they passed out blankets for us to use at the table. The food was spicy and flavorful and wine was delicious.

While in Johannesburg our CGA group traveled outside city limits to visit businesses, townships and also world heritage sites.

While there, I met with academics from the South African Institute of International Affairs, Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, Credit Providers Association South African Women Entrepreneurs Network and more. Our group also had the opportunity to meet with Rudi Dicks, outcome facilitator, Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation for the South African Presidency at government offices in Pretoria.

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One of the places that we visited while in Johannesburg was Constitutional Hill. We spent time at the Constitutional Court and the Old Fort Prison Complex, aka Number Four, which housed political prisoners and common criminals. One of its most famous prisoners was Mahatma Ghandi. This old jail was one of many stark reminders of South Africa’s difficult past and also speaks to the complicated daily life of South Africans.

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