Johannesburg is everything you think it is but also so much more. It is a city of riches and struggles, people on the run and knowing who your neighbours are. It is filled with South Africans, Africans from so far as the Ivory Coast and Ghana and of course people from ‘overseas’ that fell in love with the city’s energy.
I thought I’d share 20 cool facts about my city:
- Eish, this Joburg! This is a phrase I have heard a million times. It could be thrown in to express that you share in the misery of being stuck in traffic or that you were a victim of crime. It can be applied to just about anything that can go wrong in the city.
- Johannesburg is known as the City of Gold, eGoli, Jozi or Joburg. If you see references of 011 or 010 it is the landline area code for the city.
- It is not the only Johannesburg in the world. When some of the gold miners that worked the gold fields here made their way to California in the US they named their new town Johannesburg too. Our US counterpart is of course not nearly as big as my beloved Joburg.
- The Hillbrow Tower has been the tallest structure and tower in Africa for 45 years. It stretches 269m into the sky. Before I was born you could visit a floor 197m up… my mom told me about it.
- The Carlton Centre is the tallest office building in Africa. You can take a ride up to the viewing floor for a great view of the city. Back in the eighties this was also a destination for school groups from towns far-far-away. I was scared breathless my first time that high in the sky.
- Johannesburg is one of the youngest big cities in the world. The first tent-town iteration sprung up in 1886 during the gold rush. The official date is 4 October 1886!
- Johannesburg is also Africa’s second biggest city. Egypt’s Cairo is the biggest… but then again, they have a couple of centuries on us!
- An estimated 4.5 million people call the city home. I’ve been here since 1999. You will be able to find a person from almost every African country in the city.
- Don’t fret if you feel a little dizzy while visiting, the city lies 1753m above sea level. It takes a little longer to boil an egg here than in Durbs or Cape Town.
- On the upside, Johannesburg has a fairly mild climate with lots of sunshine. Summer months stretch from September-ish to late March. Our seasons are better than Cape Town’s but Durbs always takes the cake with warmer weather.
- Vilakazi street in Soweto is where two of South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize Winners used to live. Locals will proudly point out former South African president Nelson Mandela and former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s houses.
- The city also boasts one of the largest man-made forests in the world. There are between 5 to 10 million trees depending on who tells the story.
- The Johannesburg Zoo was founded in 1904 and is sprawled over 55 hectares. Just imagine the exercise you’ll get by visiting!
- OR Tambo International Airport, the busiest airport in Africa, was opened in 1952. It was first known as Jan Smuts Airport, then as Johannesburg International Airport in 1994 and since 2006 as OR Tambo. It’s a good thing we have such a big airport as we’ve hosted the finals for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2003 Cricket World Cup and 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup.
- First National Bank Stadium or simply FNB Stadium is the largest sports stadium in Africa with a capacity of almost 100,000 spectators. It has hosted everything from sporting events to international musical acts. It is an must-snap spot.
- Sandton is known as the richest square mile in Africa . The richest gold field in the world was discovered right here many moons ago. Now it is the most important business and financial district in South Africa – with the worst possible traffic. (I worked here for 6 years, just ask me.)
- The bronze statue of Mandela in Sandton’s Nelson Mandela Square weighs 2.5 tonnes! The statue stands 6 metres high and measures 2.3 metres from elbow to elbow. The statue depicts Mandela wearing his Madiba shirt while dancing in what was referred to at the unveiling as the “Madiba jive”. This statue was unveiled on 31 March 2004. It was the first-ever public statue of Mandela.
- Mponeng Gold Mine is the deepest mine in the world (currently). It takes an hour to get down the 4km deep shaft. It is located towards Westonaria – the western area of Johannesburg.
- Johannesburg is the world’s largest city that isn’t located near a coastline or navigable river. However, it has the world’s largest dry port that was developed in 1977 already.
- Johannesburg’s traffic is hectic, but not as bad as Cape Town’s. Joburgers are generally more aggressive in their driving style but only because they have places to go and people to see.
Next time you think that there is nothing to see in or near Joburg, think again.
We have Orlando Towers and of course Vilakazi Street, Maropeng, Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum, Liliesleaf, Gold Reef City, Museum Africa, South African Museum of Military History, Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, the Nelson Mandela Bridge, James Hall Museum of Transport, Wits Origins Centre Museum, Lindfield Victorian House Museum, Wits Johannesburg Planetarium, more than 1 Mandela statue and even one of Gandhi…
If you want to kick it old style you can still catch a steam train. You can get to any part of the country via train from Johannesburg – just not by steam train.
This one is the kicker, we also have our own winery! Gerakaris Family wines ferment and bottle grapes from the Cape Winelands in the heart of Jozi.
Eish, this Jozi is a strangely wonderful place to live.