18 August 2011

The City of Gold’s 125th birthday

Johannesburg, Jo’burg, Jozi, Egoli – whatever you call her, she remains South Africa’s vibrant economic heart and will turn a sprightly 125-years old this October.

Johannesburg - the dynamic heart of South Africa. Johannesburg - the dynamic heart of South Africa.

The festival will focus on Jo’burg as both an African city and a world city. - Mail & Guardian Johannesburg Literary Festival.

Imagine dry desolate high-altitude savannah, rocky outcrops, fierce highveld sun and biting winds from the south. Then, suddenly, everything changes and this rocky triangle of land becomes the hottest real estate in the country.

In 1886, 125 years ago, George Harrison, an unknown Australian prospector, discovers gold and one of the world's biggest gold rushes begins: dirt tracks are built, camps and shanty towns spring up, fortune-seekers from every corner of the globe move in. In no time at all, the scene has morphed into paved streets, elegant buildings and leafy suburbs.

Today Johannesburg is still the same exciting, energetic place it was back then. But now over 50 million people, made up of dozens of different population groups, call Jo'burg home and add their own unique energy and culture to the heady mix.

Jozi folk tend to think the rest of South Africa lags behind them, maybe rightly so. The city is the centre of commerce, media, business, finance – and mining, of course. The same relentless energy that drove those early miners still drives this dynamic city. Its traffic is notorious, its taxis even more so, its new high-speed train just adds to the dynamic pace. Jo'burg never stops.

The pace of life is so fast that time, not gold, is now the city's most precious commodity.

This October Johannesburg will celebrate her 125th birthday. The madam has transformed herself into a lady – albeit still a very fast one.

Check out some of her attractions. Gold Reef City is a must. After all, Johannesburg is not known as the City of Gold for nothing and gold is why you're here today, so go down the gold mine, take in an historic show, enjoy the many amusements.

Another milestone in Johannesburg's history was the Freedom Struggle. The Apartheid Museum gives a poignant history lesson. Go back even further in history to the Cradle of Humankind at Maropeng, 40km from downtown Johannesburg, and find out who your ancestors were. See the iconic township of Soweto from a quad bike, shop in glitzy malls or visit a traditional medicine shop in Diagonal St.

To celebrate the city's milestone, the Mail & Guardian newspaper will be holding their annual M&G Johannesburg Literary Festival from 2 to 4 September. 'The festival will focus on Jo’burg as both an African city and a world city,' say the festival organisers, who also promise to celebrate the city's birthday in style.

Whatever you do, get into party mood and join Jozi for a party.