Although it is the smallest of the country’s nine provinces, Gauteng (a Sotho word for the Place of Gold), is the commercial and industrial powerhouse of southern Africa. Gauteng is where the creative spirit of a nation converges in a dense, cultural heartland. It is the intersection of African and global trade – incorporating Johannesburg, Pretoria and Soweto. Gauteng is a cosmopolitan, multicultural mix of people from all walks of life, from all corners of the world. Gauteng’s primary attraction is big business, but there is so much more to this province. There is a wealth of culture to be mined in the museums, galleries, art routes and historical battlefields.
Gauteng is also an entertainment playground, offering a plethora of world-class restaurants, shebeens, shopping malls and music venues. Where else on earth can you find a mini-Big Apple existing alongside the remains of the first hominids? Gauteng has a legacy of larger-than-life heroes and villains, ancient civilisations, as well as turbulent political history. Johannesburg – also called Joburg – dates back to 1886 when the main Witwatersrand gold-bearing reef was discovered. Almost immediately, the Transvaal (as it was known then) was swamped by diggers from near and far. In 1900, Johannesburg fell to the British (during the Anglo-Boer War). Around this time, the black townships were established – such as Sophiatown and Alexandra.
The thirties gave birth to the township of Orlando – in the southwest of Johannesburg. This is the area around which Soweto evolved. Much of the history of the province was defined by apartheid and forced removals.Gauteng is the most densely populated province in South Africa. It houses more than seven million of the country’s people. Being the transport hub of the continent, the mix of people here is quite staggering, as is the level of integration amongst races. About 70% of Gauteng’s population is African; 23% white; 4% coloured (mixed race) and 2% Indian/Asian.The Highveld is said to offer one of the world’s best climates: summer days are warm and wind-free (relatively) and winter days are crisp and clear. Gauteng’s summer-rainfall area has hot summers and mild winters with frost. Hail is common during the summer thunderstorms. Snowfalls rarely occur.Johannesburg, also nicknamed Egoli (place of gold), is the capital of the province. Here, mine dumps stand firmly as symbols of its rich past, while modern architecture rubs shoulders with examples of 19th century engineering prowess. Gleaming skyscrapers contrast with Indian bazaars and African ‘muti’ (medicine) shops, where traditional healers dispense advice and traditional medicine.
The busy streets ring out with the call of fruit sellers and street vendors. An exciting blend of ethnic and Western art and cultural activities is reflected in theatres and open-air arenas, throughout the city.South of Johannesburg is Soweto, a city developed as a township for black people under the apartheid system. Most of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto. The name Soweto is an acronym, made up – in apartheid days – from the first letters of the words “south western township”.Soweto is estimated to be inhabited by over two million people, with homes ranging from extravagant mansions to makeshift shacks. Soweto is a city of enterprise and cultural interaction. It is a popular tourist destination with sites such as Kliptown (where the Freedom Charter was drawn up), the home of former President Nelson Mandela, the Hector Petersen Memorial site, restaurants and shopping malls. It boasts one of the largest hospitals on the continent and the only African-owned private clinic.Some 50 km north of Johannesburg lies Pretoria, which resides within the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality – a cluster of metropolitan municipalities and councils that amalgamated in December 2002. As administrative capital of the Republic, Pretoria is dominated by government services and the diplomatic corps of foreign representatives in South Africa. Pretoria is renowned for its colourful gardens, shrubs and trees, particularly beautiful in spring when the 50 000 jacarandas envelop the avenues in mauve. The city developed at a more sedate pace than Johannesburg, and the town planners had the foresight to include an abundance of open spaces.
Pretoria has more than 100 parks, including bird sanctuaries and nature reserves. An air of history pervades much of central Pretoria, especially Church Square, around which the city has grown. Church Square is regarded by many as the cradle of the city and it is often the point of departure for historical sightseeing tours. Many buildings of historical and architectural importance have been retained or restored to their former splendour. Gauteng’s restaurants offer everything from the most mundane franchised burger, to elaborate and exotic themes reserved for the well-heeled. From Africa, local traditions are up against the best from our neighbours in Mozambique and even as far afield as Morocco. Asia is represented in a choice of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Thai and even Vietnamese restaurants. The traditions of Europe and the Middle East have also filtered through in innumerable gastronomic offerings. Gauteng is a melting pot of music and entertainment. It is a place where cultures converge and continents collide. Jazz bars and live music hangouts offer some of the best local music on the continent. Gauteng offers some of the best shopping this side of the equator. From world-class sprawling malls, to outdoor flea markets, country stalls and even muti markets – this part of the world is a shopping Mecca for every taste. The many monuments, such as the Hector Petersen Memorial (Soweto) and the Women’s Memorial (Pretoria), are some of the historic testimonies to the bravery of our heroes.
The Sharpeville Memorial – a reminder of where protestors were killed, the Hector Petersen Memorial – a tribute to the youth of Soweto who died in the 1976 uprising, and many others stand as testament to the sons and daughters of Gauteng. Gauteng is the indisputable sporting epicentre of South Africa. The province hosted the South African Formula One Grand Prix in 1993, Rugby World Cup Final in 1995, and the All Africa Games in 1998. We also hosted the Cricket World Cup in 2003 – with superb feedback from around the globe. The Apartheid Museum is dedicated to South Africa’s darkest days – this incredible world-class museum documents the forced removals, political executions, the rise of Black Consciousness and the 1976 Soweto student uprisings and its triumphs. Newtown Cultural Precinct is where some of Johannesburg’s hot and happening cultural scene can be found. At the heart of Newtown sits the famous Museum Africa as well as the Market Theatre complex. Newtown is part of the inner city regeneration project and promises to be Joburg’s most popular tourist hotspot.
Take a tour to the Cradle of Humankind, at Sterkfontein, Gauteng’s famous World Heritage Site – where caves have produced nearly half of the world’s hominid fossil discoveries. Close to the Cradle is the Kromdraai Wonder Cave, as well as the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. Experience Township Life up close and personal, in Soweto. Visiting the Regina Mundi Church, Sharpeville Memorial Site, Nelson Mandela’s home – and/or stay for the night at any of Soweto’s famous Bed and Breakfasts. There are also township tours offered in Alexandra as well as the keen hospitality offered by township dwellers around Tshwane. The Magaliesberg area offers a wonderful arts-and-crafts route including fabulous foodie options, country getaways and wildlife. The Crocodile Ramble and the Magalies Meander are two well-known tourists routes in the area. Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens is a well-maintained nature reserve with over 600 species of flowering plants, 210 species of birds, as well as a number of reptiles and small mammals. Spend a day at the famous Gold Reef City, where you can go underground on a mine exploration and relive the old gold rush days of Johannesburg. Museum Heartland in Pretoria offers a number of fantastic museums, grouped together as Museum Park. Why not visit the Natural Cultural History Museum of Science and Technology, the Transvaal Museum and the GeoScience Museum, to mention just a few. Kuger House is the former home of President Paul Kruger. He lived in a house situated just three blocks from Church Square, from 1884 until 1900.
The Victorian gabled house – which represents a simplified version of the neo-Gothic style – is a museum and displays his furniture, stagecoach, private railway coach and all of his personal effects. A few hundred metres to the west, is Pretoria’s Old Cemetery, Helde Akker (heroes’ acre) where President Kruger lies buried. Union Buildings was designed by British Architect Sir Herbert Baker to accommodate the offices of the Prime Minister in 1913. The Union Buildings is set in terraced gardens modelled on the famous Villa d’Este at Tivoli near Rome, Italy, with magnificent views of the city. The gardens of the Union Buildings are home to another group of memorial structures. The Delville Wood memorial commemorates the South African soldiers who died in the Battle of Delville Wood in France (World War I). Today, the Union Buildings still house the offices of the State President. Voortrekker Monument Heritage Site is perched conspicuously on top of one of the many hills that surround the City of Pretoria, is the imposing Voortrekker Monument. This enormous granite construction commemorates the Voortrekkers (pioneers) who trekked from the Cape, between 1835 and 1854, in search of independence from British rule. Tswaing Meteorite Crater is situated 40 km to the northwest of Pretoria, the Tswaing Meteorite Crater is known as the Pretoria Saltpan. One of the best-preserved meteorite craters in the world, this crater is home to a few stone artefacts of the Late Stone Age as well as an impressive wetland. All around Gauteng, one has the opportunity to experience wildlife and nature at its most abundant. The much-loved Lanseria lion park is a must for children of all ages and Krugersdorp Game Reserve offers a safari-type adventure close to both Johannesburg and Pretoria.