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Johannesburg, South Africa

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Johannesburg at Night

Johannesburg at Night

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Johannesburg Stadiums

Johannesburg Stadiums

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Nelson Mandela Bridge

Nelson Mandela Bridge

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Johannesburg, or Jo'burg, Egoli ("City of Gold"), or Jozi, as it is affectionately known by locals, is the commercial heart of South Africa and the primary gateway for international visitors. Historically it is where money is made and fortunes are found. The city has a (perhaps rather unfair) reputation for being an ugly, dangerous place you ought to avoid on any trip to South Africa. On the contrary, much of Johannesburg is quite pretty, largely because of the millions of trees that cover it (it has, purportedly, the largest human-planted forest in the world), and statistically speaking it is less dangerous than Cape Town.But like all big cities in the world, there are some areas that are safer than others; you should keep your wits about you in Jo'burg and not flaunt expensive equipment or jewelry in public places. Johannesburg is South Africa's most-visited city by far, and it's well worth a stopover of at least two or three days. There's plenty to see here, including the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill in the city, not to mention the nearby city of Soweto, and the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site about 90 minutes away. All the attractions listed in this chapter, including areas like Sandton, Rosebank, Greenside, and Parkhurst, are perfectly safe to visit on your own.Ask a jol (lively party) of Jo'burgers what they love about their hometown, and they may point to its high-paced energy; its opportunity; afternoon thunderstorms in the summer; the Pirates versus Chiefs derby (the Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are South Africa's most loved—and hated—soccer teams); spectacular sunsets; jacaranda blooms carpeting the city in purple in October and November; a great climate; the dog walks around Emmarentia Dam; the fast-paced lifestyle; the can-do attitude; the down-to-earth nature of its people; and the city's rich history. For many, Johannesburg is the gateway to the rest of Africa, and it may very well be the continent's most cosmopolitan city.Johannesburg’s origins lie in the discovery of gold. The city sits at the center of a vast urban industrial complex that covers most of the province of Gauteng (the g is pronounced like the ch in Chanukah), which means "Place Where the Gold Is" in the Sotho language and is home to the world's deepest gold mines (more than 3.9 km [2.4 miles] deep). More than 100 years ago it was just a rocky piece of unwanted Highveld land. But in 1886 an Australian, George Harrison, officially discovered gold, catapulting Johannesburg into a modern metropolis that still helps to power the country's economy (though gold mining has been winding down in recent years).With a population between 8 and 10 million—if you include the surrounding cities like Soweto, the East Rand, and the West Rand—greater Jo'burg is a fairly populous city by world standards (bigger than New York but smaller than Tokyo) and is by far the country's largest city. Despite its industrial past, Jozi remains a green city, with more than 10 million trees and many beautiful parks and nature reserves, which is all the more exceptional considering it is the largest city in the world not built on a river or near a significant water source.In the late 1980s many of central Johannesburg's big businesses fled north from urban decay to the suburb of Sandton, now an upmarket commercial hub in its own right. But lately local government and businesses have been reinvesting in the inner city, and parts are being revived. The Maboneng precinct in the city center, for instance, is a hub of trendy restaurants, markets, and art galleries.In addition, local government has invested in an extensive new public transportation system that serves the local working population and tourists alike. This includes the Gautrain rapid rail system that connects Johannesburg with Pretoria and the O. R. Tambo International Airport, moving Jo'burg steadily toward its goal of being—as the city’s government is eager to brand it—“a world-class African city."

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South Africa’s Former Shame
South Africa’s Former Shame

A quote by Nelson Mandela about freedom’s meaning graces the entrance to the Apartheid Museum, which provides a thought-provoking look at segregation.

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Image Credit

Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy

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A Peace Guru’s Home
A Peace Guru’s Home

Who knew that Mahatma Ghandi spent 21 years in South Africa? You can tour, stay and dine at the serene Satyagraha House, one of his residences.

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Image Credit

PABALLO THEKISO / AFP / Getty Images

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See Soweto Through Your Own Eyes
See Soweto Through Your Own Eyes

A tour of the symbol of urban poverty and home to the late Nelson Mandela illustrates the divide between rich and poor in South Africa’s history.

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Image Credit

Zute Lightfoot / Alamy

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10 Ways to Get Kicked Off a Flight

Air travel rules vary by airline, but follow these common standards to avoid being prohibited from flying.

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Petting With Pride
Petting With Pride

No time for a safari? Visit Lion Park, where visitors are allowed to play with cubs. This preserve also is home to cheetahs, wild dogs and springboks.

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Image Credit

Walter Stein / Getty Images

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The World's Top Cruise Ports

Historical and beautiful, these stops are not-to-be-missed.

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Gamble and Gambol
Gamble and Gambol

The luxury Montecasino complex deals out gaming, stage shows, movies and shopping. There’s even on-site lodging and a bird park.

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Image Credit

Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy

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The World's Top Cruise Ports

Historical and beautiful, these stops are not-to-be-missed.

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