Durban, South Africa
Durban is a wonderfully multicultural gem of a city, which is home to the largest Indian population outside of India. The Victoria Street Market feels like its epicenter. Mostly just known as “Old Vic,” its colorfully painted stalls are piled with red and yellow spices, while incense adds a heady fragrance to the air. You’ll no doubt find various food outlets offering “bunnychow,” half a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry.
The serene magnificence of the Juma Masjid Mosque is found in this part of the city too, a vast building with golden domes on its minarets, which has stood on this site in some form or other since 1881.
Durban resides on the edge of the KwaZulu-Natal province, and it could be the springboard for an adventure inland to experience the stunning scenery and rich local customs. One excursion could whisk you into the evocatively named Valley of a Thousand Hills, with its rippled ridges and green slopes in the heart of Zulu country. There you can pay a visit to a cultural village for traditional demonstrations of beadwork, spear making, drumming and dancing.
In the city itself, the Phansi Museum is another way to delve into the local artistry. You can admire the ceremonial tribal costumes from across the region and, indeed, the nation, as well as all manner of objects from pipes and Zulu pots to wood carvings and fertility dolls.
Durban can be thought of as South Africa’s Riviera, basking as it does in a pleasant subtropical climate. Its enticing beachfront, known as the “Golden Mile,” actually offers over three and a half miles of sandy shore where surfers and swimmers flock to waters warmed by the Mozambique Current.
A striking feature at the north of the Golden Mile is the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Built for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it features a large arch which is more than simply decorative: you can climb the steps or ride the SkyCar for sensational views. If you’re a cricket fan, the ground at Kingsmead, which first hosted a test match in 1923, may also be on your personal itinerary. Another way to sample the mild weather here is at the Durban Botanic Gardens, home to the orchid house, Japanese Garden and its rare Cycad collection.
Of course, one of Durban’s great attractions is what lies all around. This part of the world is an invitation to set off on a game drive at one of the many reserves in the area. It’s a thrilling experience to see giraffe loping gracefully across the savanna, herds of zebra or elephants, or to scan the brush for majestic lions, leopards and rhinos.