Johannesburg Today

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The Westcliff
Arrived safe and sound at the beautiful Westcliff Hotel. This city is full of so much history we don’t know where to start. A little sleep will help tremendously. More later.

Here are first impressions: The Joburg airport was beautiful, new and shiny clean and very colourful. Customs was very efficient. Good thing too because hundreds of people arrived with us. In fact our plane alone held 526 people! We were through Customs – all African staff – in no time and a car and driver from the hotel were waiting for us outside the gates. Thirty minute ride to our hotel. The city looks clean and prosperous, at least the part we see. Our driver, Lazarus is very well turned out in very clean and fresh khaki pants and light blue Oxford cloth shirt. He tells us the population is about 16 million including the suburbs and townships. We know from other sources that 80pc of the country’s population is African. This is the term that Mandela uses for blacks. He also refers to Coloureds (mixed race), Indians (a big influence in Durban) and Whites (principally Dutch, British, German heritage).

We passed numerous road crews repairing the roads or working on the sides. Another remarkable feature was the huge display of many different kinds of trees. Unfortunately we missed the famous Jacaranda which blooms purple in September. There are thousands in Joburg. It must be quite a sight.

Our hotel is a beautiful old classic built on the hillside in Rosebank, which looks like a very upscale part of the city. You can see the European influence in the architecture and the amenities – reminds me a little of the British influence in Hong Kong. There’s a Polo bar for instance at the hotel, staffed by very smart-looking Africans but looking very much like a British Club.

We’re tired and excited. Tomorrow we will arrange a tour of Soweto and the Apartheid Museum.

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