A Long Walk to Freedom
By Chris Phan, Krishan Narsinghani, and Vaughn Lowery.
Recently, 360 Magazine traveled to South Africa during one of the largest travel conventions on the continent. One hundred journalists from Northern America joined Indaba Media in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.
Nelson Mandela is respected as the “Father of the Nation.” He was an anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist, who served as President from 1994 to 1999. Mandela also served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997.
Mandela was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His vision was to dismantle apartheid (a system of segregation based on race) by tackling discrimination and fostering reconciliation. Mandela looked ahead and realized the law must change in order for a better future. Twenty-four years after the corrupt system was terminated, South Africa has been in overdrive to establish a firm democracy.
The great city of Durban took the 360 team by storm with Indaba – a meet and greet of media and travel agents to express their lives views and attractions on what the city and South Africa has to offer.
Day one of the Indaba Convention, journalists met at the Maharani Hotel for an opening ceremony. Later, trade show floor booths opened for business at the Durban International Convention Center in addition to presentations from various industry professionals. During the press conference, it was said that the trip’s airline, British Airways would now offer direct non-stop flights between Heathrow Airport and Durban.
Indaba also touched on other tourist attractions. South Africa offers an unbelievable amount of restaurants, markets, bars and lounges, but take pride that they surpass expectations in their food & drink festivals. The Whisky Live Festival and South African Cheese Festival are two major events – just to name a few.
Human rights were another important topic discussed at the convention. The South African people continue to exuberate equality and fairness along with an effort to amend the ways in which the LGBT and minority communities are treated while traveling.
As the evening winded down, an opportunity for networking commenced. Soon after, journalists engaged in conversation while devouring traditional eats coupled with a small beer/wine reception followed by a brief fashion presentation.
On day two of Indaba, Durban Tourism celebrated a dinner cruise on La Vue Floating Restaurant. The 85-foot luxury catamaran (200-person capacity) features two amazing decks, two full bars and a dance floor. Cozy with great cocktails – it’s perfect for groups.
Durban’s population is just over 595,000. The metropolitan area has a population of over 3.8 million and is known for its golden beaches, relaxed surf culture and vibrant culinary scene (some of the best spicy curry dishes said to rival India’s). Culture stems from the blend of Zulu, Indian, European and remnants of British roots that make up the city’s diverse heritage. South Africa’s Station Drive Precinct, once a rundown warehouse district has been transformed to a major tourist attraction with exceptional fine dining, drinking and shopping. Thanks to a collaborative group of artistic individuals, businesses range from homegrown distilleries and breweries to local art galleries. I Heart Market is a good and design market held on the first Saturday of each month. Presented with locally produced goods and artisanal creations such as ceramics, crochet toys and original prints – shoppers will not be disappointed. Nearby tourists can partake in an exquisite gin tasting at Distillery 031 along with lunch at Lion’s Match Factory.
The feasting does not stop there – Durban’s own, House of Curries restaurant, blends bold Indian spices and flavors for extravagant curry dishes. House of Curries has been a staple on the Florida Road strip since 1999 and a perfect attraction for relaxation on their patio deck.
Much like a market, BAT Centre is a place where local artists and crafters work on-site, exhibiting and selling their works in a vibrant complex. This nonprofit arts center is dedicated to the preservation, promotion and celebration of the visual arts, crafts, music, dance and literature of the Province.
Street art has found new life in redevelopment projects across various neighborhoods. These street artists were inspired by their surroundings with many exploring themes of politics and nature, all whilst using their work for social activism.
Travelers in search of nighttime adventures can visit Cubana Havana, a popular cigar/hookah lounge featuring handcrafted cocktails as well as a simple menu located on the highly revered Florida Road. Tourists shouldn’t miss Mahatma Ghandi Road in downtown Durban for an evening of fine music at a world – class Jazz bar known as The Chairman. Not only is there an assortment of signature cocktails and cigars, but also a gallery and sophisticated atmosphere that believes in justice for all.
Fun fact. Over 85% of all BMW 3 series vehicles are produced at the Rosslyn plant just outside of Durban and are shipped to various markets worldwide, including the USA, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Canada.
The expedition kicked off in Johannesburg aka “Joburg,” (approximately 8 million in population and largest city in the country), the epicenter of South Africa who’s currently in a state of revival. The team then headed to Nelson Mandela Square, a must-see tourist spot. The campus includes the DaVinci Hotel, indoor and outdoor shopping malls, upscale boutiques, a movie theatre, grocery stores, restaurant/bars and a casino.
In order to achieve a local feel, stop by Neighbourgoods Market for purchases of South African eats and assorted libations distributed from multiple vendors.
The following day we departed for Constitution Hill and embarked on a full tour of the visitor’s center. Constitution Hill was former fort site transformed into a prison. “The Robben Island of Johannesburg” included notable prisoners Mahatma Ghandi, Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer and Nelson Mandela. Mandela was imprisoned for more than twenty years at this location. “As an African American being able to stand inside the actual cell of Mandela was life-changing. The dark, ominous confined space gave me a newfound appreciation of what it means to be free. No human should ever have to endure such injustice because they yearn for social equality and justice for all,” says Lowery, President of 360 Magazine.
Lunch at Lebo’s Backpackers Outdoor Restaurant was set outside in various cabanas at a local Soweto hostel within its community park followed by the Soweto Tuk Tuk Tour. The team enjoyed riding in these three-wheeled taxis, while sipping on craft beers and witnessing the city’s rich history. Stops included Vilakazi Street, where Nelson Mandela’s house still stands, as well as Hector Peterson Memorial.
Art lovers be sure to drop by CIRCA Gallery which stands beside Everard Read headquarters, parading some of the most important contemporary art collections from around the world.
With regards to nightlife, music lovers can head to Taboo Night Club and News Cafe to discover local and international DJ’s. News Cafe combines its food, services and venue into a coffee bar, cocktail bar, restaurant and entertainment venue all-in-one. It’s the perfect destination for relaxation or clubbing with a modern aesthetic.
From Johannesburg, the voyage shifted to Cape Town, a world renown entertainment and prestigious modeling hub for some of the industries top talents. With just under 4 million in population, it’s considered the second most populous city in South Africa. The group checked in at The Table Bay Hotel and visited Nobel Square for a photo opportunity followed by lunch at V&A Waterfront’s The Yard Restaurant. Just adjacent in the Silo District is the highly acclaimed Zeitz Mocaa Museum. It exhibits twenty-first century contemporary art from Africa and its Diaspora with over 100 galleries throughout 9 floors, showcasing art from still photography to moving art installations.
Our local guide incorporated “Footsteps to Freedom” walking tour Mandela in Cape Town: From prisoner to President. “Dinner at Crypt Jazz Club was a personal favorite from the team as they feasted into the night while being enamored by some of the nation’s most prolific local musicians.
Table Mountain’s Cable Car Ride offers 360 degree spectacular views of the coastal town while being hoisted to the top. At the summit, clouds draped the surrounding view while journalists snapped selfies for Instagram. On the other hand, if winds are too strong for the cable ride, adventurers can hike alongside of the mountains during park hours to witness this landmark backdrop engulfed by condensation – similar in type to dry ice bucket. Just below, you can take in Bo-Kaap township, an area filled with colorful homes and cobblestone roads. Subsequently, lunch was served by famed chef Abigail Mbalo (from MasterChef South Africa) at 4ROOMED Ekasi Culture. She’s widely known to take indigenous delights and fuse them into gourmet bites fit for the Food Network. The day ended with a night of laughter at the Cape Town Comedy Club, a must-visit for all who enjoy pizzas infused with locally sourced ingredients coupled with barrel of laughs.
At Port Elizabeth, history unfolded. In 1820, it was established to house British settlers and boasts a population of 1.3 million, as its now a part of the newly formed Nelson Mandela Bay. This Vegas-style resort town is home to Sun International’s The Boardwalk Hotel that includes tons of shops, eateries, bars and casinos within walking distance. Named The Public Art City Tour: Route 67, stops included a visit to Voting Line Sculpture and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum. Lastly, dinner at Asada/Fushin was a meal to remember. The restaurant fabricates South African fusion flare with scrumptious fresh seafood and sushi.
Within two weeks, we received a first-hand account of the history and culture behind Nelson Mandela and his legacy in South Africa. With an intricate four major city tour, we were able to experience an amazing arts and culinary scene in the ever changing country of South Africa. Given the plethora of outdoor activities, architectural gems, gorgeous landscapes and tender-hearted people, this destination should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list if it’s not already.