Making a business trip to Johannesburg anytime soon? You may think Jo’Burg’s just another faceless industrial city, but think again! Here are 10 facts about the City of Gold that’ll change your mind about this awesome South African city…
1. OR Tambo Airport
Your first glimpse of the city of Johannesburg may well be from Africa’s busiest airport, which handles 17 million passengers each year. The airport is named for former president of the African National Congress, Oliver Tambo. Situated at 1,700 metres above sea level, its high altitude made it perfect for testing the world-famous Concorde aircraft back in the 1970s. It also boasts one of the longest runways in the world (aircraft need more space taking off and landing at altitude).
2. The Gautrain
Catch a ride to and from the airport on the city’s new rapid rail and bus service, the Gautrain. For a reasonable fee, the Gautrain will take you to the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg (where many businesses are located) or to South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria.
3. City of Gold
As you travel through Johannesburg, you’ll see those characteristic mine dumps wherever you go. Johannesburg was founded in 1886 when a prospector found gold here. Where most towns built around a gold rush eventually crumbled when the gold dried up and people moved on, Johannesburg has been described as a shanty town which just kept on growing. Gold is still mined in the greater Gauteng area – underneath Johannesburg, a labyrinth of mining tunnels. Got some free time? Pay a visit to Gold Reef City and see how a gold mine works.
4. A city oasis
A stark contrast to the mine dumps, you’ll notice the vast numbers of trees here. In fact, Jo’burg has the world’s biggest man-made forest, estimated at some 10 million trees!
5. Water, or the lack of it
With all those trees, you’d think Johannesburg had plenty of water, but no! In fact, Johannesburg is the only major city in the world not built near a natural body of water, like a river, lake or sea.
6. Downtown Johannesburg
Once a crime-ridden, dark and dirty part of the city, Johannesburg’s inner city is undergoing a transformation. The area has a colourful look and vibrant atmosphere increasingly popular with overseas tourists. The area is home to the Apartheid Museum and Chancellor House, where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo practiced law in the 1950s. Newtown is a hip and happening part of downtown Jo’Burg, with restaurants, jazz clubs and the world-renowned Market Theatre. If you’re fearful of going alone, join a tour group.
7. The people of Johannesburg
United in their diversity, the inhabitants of this cool, cosmopolitan city are warm and friendly, and represent a cauldron of cultures from around South Africa, Africa, and the world. That humanity converges in this new city, just over 120 years old, is poignant given that humankind has its origins right here – The Cradle of Humankind, just outside the city at Maropeng, is a World Heritage Site where some of the oldest hominid fossils have been found.
8. Johannesburg Shopping Centres
What is it with Johannesburg and shopping centres? The city has some of the finest shopping malls in the country, indeed the world. If you’re looking to do a little retail therapy, you’re definitely in the right city! Visit Sandton City, The Mall of Rosebank, and Hyde Park Corner.
9. The Hillbrow Tower
Formerly known as the JG Strijdom Tower, this is a landmark which dominates the Johannesburg skyline (you’ll see it from almost everywhere in the city). A telecommunications tower, it’s the tallest building in Africa at 269 metres and is located in the downtown neighbourhood of Hillbrow. Apart from the Hillbrow Tower, the city has a world-class communications infrastructure, including excellent cell phone and WiFi coverage. You will find WiFi hotspots at most cafés, hotels, shopping centres, and even the High Courts of the city, which acquired WiFi facilities in August 2012, bringing the city’ justice system firmly into the 21st Century.
10. Constitutional Hill
Speaking of a 21st Century justice system, did you know that the Constitution of South Africa is regarded as the most progressive constitution in the world? South Africa’s Constitution came into effect in 1997, nearly three years after South Africa’ first democratic elections, and is the supreme law of the land. It emphasises universal adult suffrage and a Bill of Rights. The highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court, is situated at Constitution Hill, on the sight of the Old Fort Prison Complex in Johannesburg. Many political activists, including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, were detained here. The new ConCourt building is also an architectural marvel which speaks to the values and ethos of a democratic South Africa.
What have you experienced of Johannesburg? What are the 10 things that make your business trips to Johannesburg worthwhile?