Think You Know Johannesburg? Think Again

By Abi King | Best Places to Visit in Africa

Oct 13

Hi Jozi Cushion

First of all, I’m sorry.

I heard some bad things about you. More than once in fact.

I heard about your past, your crimes, your problems.

I heard less about your soul.

Jozi - Soweto

I saw a range of photos. But those stories whispered louder in my ear.

I don’t want you to know this. But those stories left me frightened. They left my courage uneven, my curiosity unsure.

They left me tinged with fear. Not cool to touch at the edges, but poker hot like skin scraped raw from scalding, sharpened, coiled barbed wire.

And, let’s face it, you have that wire to spare. Across your walls and rooftops. Over fences, between fields. That wire that hooked my eyes and distracted me from what lay beyond.

Jozi - we are open

Your golden flat topped mountains, from the mining rush that bore you. The red-brown earth and short bleached grass where feet and footballs danced around. Your broad and leafy avenues. Your tall, imposing towers. Your colour and creativity, where you’d have the right to surrender and have none.

Your scope for regeneration. And sense of forgiveness that overwhelms.

Jozi Orlando Towers

Your friendly, open nature when you saw me through my lens. And even warmer response when I stripped that glass shield away.

Jozi Soweto

Yes, you’re a city with problems. There are few in the world that don’t.

But I’ve never felt so welcome. And I have the good fortune to travel a lot.

So please, I hope you’ll forgive me and let me bring your story to the world.

And like those voices I’ve heard speak here.

I hope you’ll let me call you Jozi.



Disclosure: I’m here in South Africa as a guest of GoToSouthAfrica, South African Airlines and JMT Tours. But as regular readers will know, I’m always free to write whatever I like. And I do. Otherwise, really, there is just no point.


Do you know Johannesburg well? Have any preconceptions about the place?



About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Sarah Lee says:

    Nice post Abi. I found Joburg to be so much more than mass media would have you believe – and you’re right – there are problems everywhere. Joburg has a high crime rate and the idea of it can be scary. But there’s so much more to this great city. South Africa is the most incredible country I’ve ever visited and I hope it continues to progress and prosper.

  • Sophie says:

    Johannesburg is an exciting city, I think. And avoiding crime is mostly about common sense, isn’t it… here and anywhere else.

  • Kirsten says:

    I liked JoBurg the first time I was there, though it was only for a night. Now, I am leaving this Wednesday for a week there and in Cape Town as well as on safari. I hope I will discover its soul as well.

  • Eve Meighen says:

    Very nice post Abi. I love your writing!
    I’ve never been to Johannesburg but would love to go. I heard many bad stories about the city too. Thanks for showing up a brighter side.

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