Don’t Sleep on Johannesburg, South Africa

by Aug 30, 20190 comments

Don’t sleep on the gem that is Johannesburg- yes we need to have this talk! Most millennials have trekked across numerous countries in Europe, I am guilty of this. You are more than likely to find countless roundtrip flight deals to Europe and on that rare occasion that an African country is listed for under $700, don’t hesitate just book it. It’s that trip of a lifetime, you certainly won’t regret.

Trips to Italy, France, and Spain are often glamorized but besides the adventure seeking safari enthusiasts or missionary trips to the Motherland -why are so many still hesitant when it comes to visiting a country in Africa. 

As a first generation born American to West African Sierra Leonean parents, I was more than ecstatic to “go home,” but I can understand the aforementioned reluctancy. For starters we’re told that it’s dangerous, poverty stricken and I cannot exactly pinpoint whether it’s pure ignorance or the images portrayed across the spectrum to blame for the discrepancies in the depictions of the continent. I would be a millionaire by now for all of the times, I was called an African booty scratcher in elementary school. What’s that? Who came up with this? As early as our childhood and even into our adulthood, we have this odd ideology and mentality engraved into our logics that Africa equates to poverty, “booty scratchers,” dashikis and mud huts.

 

The narrative has to change. However, I will not negate the fact that there are many living in slums and still lacking access to basic necessities such as clean water and electricity. These are things that we often take for granted in the U.S. Soweto is an example of this. While this is certainly a reality, I am selective and particularly careful in not presenting this as the full picture and painting this as the only narrative. This talk is necessary in order to further change the perspective of what we have deemed the irreversible perception of the continent.

 

Prior to my trip to Johannesburg, I was forewarned about the safety/robbery concerns in the area. Simply put, I received the “it’s not safe,” the infamous -why are you going there talk? While our family and friends tend to have our best interest at heart, their opinions often instill an unsolicited fear in our minds. Sometimes you listen and other times, you have to go and see for yourself. I am so glad, I didn’t listen. 

 

 

Despite these preconceived notions, Johannesburg offers nothing but good vibes, great food and friendly people. While I advise to always exercise caution during travel, be sure to keep an open mind! Take heed to advice from family and friends but don’t be too afraid to venture out and explore the unknown. The city is rich in culture and history i.e apartheid and Nelson Mandela, youthful, vibrant and filled with modern amenities and structures such as the amusement park and casino at Gold Reef City, Sandton City Mall, The Post for brunch, Back O’ The Moon for dinner and dancing and Neighbourgood’s Market on a Saturday afternoon for my foodie lovers.

 

 

I’ve spent 7 days and 6 nights in Downtown Johannesburg without a hitch or the fear of being pick-pocketed or bamboozled.  Additionally, the Protea Hotel staff were extremely helpful with setting up transportation and booking tours which consisted of the elephant sanctuary and rhino and lion nature reserve. These tours are within an hour’s drive from downtown. Uber is also available (side eye Barcelona) and the U.S dollar (USD) goes a long way here, what is not to love. One USD is equivalent to approximately 14 rands. Can we say ballin’ on a budget! 

 

I’ve never felt more welcomed and at home and grateful to be surrounded by a multitude of black and brown faces. It’s that feeling you get at an HBCU homecoming or as if you are being reunited with a cousin, you haven’t seen in years or better yet when you get that invite to the cookout. Johannesburg is a beauty and a life changing experience. My only hope is for you to fall in love with Joburg, the way I did. Don’t sleep on Jozi!