The discovery of the natural harbour of Durban dates back to Christmas Day 1497, when passing Portuguese seafarers named it “Rio de Natal” (the River of Christmas). In 1823, a European trader Henry Fynn and his party became the first white people to settle in the area. Until that time, the only people in the area were the indigenous Zulus. The small white settlement grew into a town and twelve years later it was named for the acting Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin D’Urban.
Today, Durban is the busiest port in Africa and the third largest city in South Africa. It is also home to the largest concentration of Indian people in South Africa. The Indians first arrived as indentured labourers to work on the sugar plantations of KwaZulu-Natal. When their contracts expired, they were allowed to stay and their families and friends followed them to South Africa.
The different influences of the various cultures have made the city of Durban a treasure trove of architectural styles. The major styles include Victorian, Edwardian, Union, Berea, Oriental and art deco. Durban has an excellent selection of art deco architecture. This style developed in the 1920s and captured the spirit of the jazz age and, signifying a break from British Imperialism.
Adventure And Sport
Beaches: The beaches in the Durban area are one of the region’s enduring attractions. Sunbathers, swimmers, surfers and anglers all find spots along the coastline to enjoy their favourite pastime.
Cricket: Kingsmead Stadium in Durban often holds international cricketing events.
Horse racing: Horse races take place weekly at the Greyville and Clairwood racecourses. The “Durban July” is the country’s premier horse-racing event. The race is run at the beginning of July at Greyville and one of the highlights of the event is the imaginative fashions worn by its patrons.
Sport venues: Durban has several golf courses to choose from, as well as other facilities where rugby, cricket, tennis and other sports can be played, as befits a city of international stature.
Art And Crafts
Bartle Arts Trust (BAT) Centre: The Bartle Arts Trust (BAT) Centre near the Esplanade houses several studios and galleries and in the evenings, the coffee shop and veranda resound with laughter. During the day, visitors may watch painters, sculptors, dancers and
musicians at work and the evenings are reserved for events such as theatre productions, film or video festivals and live festivals. There is always something happening at the Centre!
Coppin Johnson Gallery: The Coppin Johnson Gallery has a large selection of prints, watercolours, original oils, pastels, graphics, sculptures, glassware and pottery on display.
Durban Art Gallery: The City of Durban boasts a large number of art galleries of which the Durban Art Gallery is the most impressive. The Gallery hosts different kinds of exhibitions and acts as a showcase for a wide array of performing arts that include art, fashion, dance and music genres.
Elizabeth Gordon Gallery: The Elizabeth Gordon Gallery features the works of different artists every month.
Galleries: Other noteworthy galleries in Durban include The Arts Spectrum, The Heritage Market, Gallery 343 (Essen Road), Visuals Gallery (Pinetown), The Orient Art Gallery (South Street) and the Matombo Gallery which sells stone sculptures made by internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean artists.
Killie Campbell Museum: The museum is still furnished in much the same way as when the Campbell family lived here. The picture collection has one of South Africa’s finest collections of work by black South African artists.
Tekweni Business Development Centre: Be sure to support the Tekweni Business Development Centre in Alice Road. It sells rural arts and crafts and supports underprivileged communities.
Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre: The Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre details the history of the city’s Indian population. Some of the themes include the history of
the Indians as indentured labourers, their interaction with other culture groups and Mahatma Gandhi’s stay in the country. The Centre also houses a beautiful collection of traditional jewellery, costumes and religious artefacts.
Muti Market: The Muti (“Medicine”) Market at the Warwick Street Triangle is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors will gain invaluable insight into traditional African medicines and healing methods. The traditional healers will even “throw the bones” for you, to tell what lies in your future. Although visitors will not always understand or believe in some of the methods and mixtures, it would be well to remember that these methods have served people for centuries.
Traditional Market: The Traditional Market in Dalton Road supplies most of the traditional costumes, weapons and crafts in Durban. A guide who speaks both Zulu and English is essential, as most of the traders are from rural backgrounds and speak very little English.
Township Tours: Various tour guide companies offer township tours to such areas as Clermont and Lamontville. Many of the leaders of the Freedom Struggle lived in the Durban area and these areas were often affected by the conflict. As a result, the townships were bypassed for development projects and the people had to live under steadily worsening conditions. Guided tours include visits to shebeens.
Entertainment And Shopping
Durban is a shopper’s Mecca. In addition to the modern and well-designed shopping centres that display goods to their best advantage, the city also offers many informal shopping adventures.
Bazaar in Gillespie Street: The Bazaar in Gillespie Street offers a wide range of products and also has restaurant and pub facilities. It is open daily from 09:00 to 22:00.
Essenwood Craft Market: Essenwood Craft Market is set in a tranquil park. Breathe in the fresh air while feasting your eyes on the exquisitely crafted products such as stained glass items, homemade candles, clothing and alfresco art. The market is situated on the corner of Essenwood and Sydenham Roads in Berea.
Farepark Market: The Farepark Market, between West and Pine Streets, is open daily from 08:00 to 17:00. The stalls offer a varied range of crafts and collectables for sale. Browse and buy at your leisure.
Fun World: Fun World is situated on the Marine Parade. This amusement park offers hair-raising rides to children and adults alike. Enjoy the excitement, from rides and bumper cars to a cableway (presenting a view of the beachfront) and a carousel.
Moonlight Market: The Moonlight Market at the Stables has a rich variety of goods for sale, such as pottery, art, clothing, antiques and books. Let your shopping instincts run wild among the stalls housed in converted horse stables. It is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 18:00 to 22:00 and on Sundays from 12:00 to 18:00. The Stables are on Jacko Jackson Drive.
Natal Playhouse: The Natal Playhouse regularly presents shows such as musicals and dramas. Guided tours show visitors the work and preparation that goes into producing the fabulous shows.
Other Markets: Other markets include Church Square Market (in the middle of town, open daily from 08:00 to 16:00), the Amphimarket at North Beach (open on Sundays from 09:00 to 16:00). The Bluff Flea market is open for business on the first and last Saturdays of the month. The Ridley Park Flea market in Malvern also operates on the same days. Southway Flea market is open for business on the first and last Saturdays of the month. It operates from the Southway Mall in Rossburgh. The Pineville Junction Craft Market in Pinetown is situated on the corner of Stapleton and Old Main Roads. This market operates on the first and last Saturdays of the month and mainly sells arts and crafts. The Christian’s Craft market is open for business on the Hillcrest Village Green in Hillcrest on Saturdays. The Westville Craft Market operates on the premises of the Westville Civic Centre.
Point Waterfront Market: The Point Waterfront Market combines the outdoors with craft, utilities and bargain shopping. It also has a pub, restaurants and entertainment for the children. You will find this market at The Point in Point Road. It operates daily from 08h30 to 16:00.
Rickshaw Rides: Rickshaw rides are probably as characteristic of Durban as its beachfront. Rickshaws are colourful two-wheeled buggies carrying one or two people, drawn by traditionally clad Zulu men. Although there are not as many rickshaws as there used to be in former years, the rides are still an adventure not to be missed. The route usually follows the road along the beachfront.
South Plaza Market: The South Plaza Market has up to 500 outdoor and 200 indoor stalls. It sells fine crafts and bargains of all sorts and is open on Sundays from 09:00 to 16:00. The market is in Aliwal Street, next to the Durban Exhibition Centre.
Victoria Street Market: The Victoria Street Market is characterised by its distinctly Indian atmosphere. Items such as African arts and crafts, clothing and traditional foods are on sale. The market is open from Monday to Saturday from 06h00 to 18:00 and on Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00.
Watamu Craft Market: The Watamu Craft Market at 37 Alamein Avenue, Kloof is open every Friday from 09:00 to 13:00 and on Saturday from 09:00 to 12:00. If you are in search of good quality local art and craftwork, this is the place to go.
Waterworld: If the sea is too rough for you, visit Waterworld with its swimming pools, waterslides and rides. Children of all ages will find something to enjoy. Water World is situated between Battery Beach and Snell Parade.
The Wheel: The name of this shopping and entertainment centre is derived from the colossal Ferris wheel ringed by ornamental Indian howdah gondolas mounted on the building’s façade. This Oriental theme is continued throughout the interior, although for the most part, there is a nautical tone.
Fauna And Flora
The Amphitheatre: The Amphitheatre is a tranquil retreat from the noise and bustle of the city. The lawns and flowers are interspersed with footbridges, summer houses, fountains and footpaths.
Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve: Black, red and white mangrove trees grow in the reserve, and creeping plants and pioneer scrub are found on the sand dunes. The area is used as a Nature Conservation Education Centre.
The Bluff Nature Reserve: Many different animals graze on the various species of plants that grow in the Bluff Nature Reserve. Bird hides provide shelter for avid bird watchers.
Burman Bush Nature Reserve: The small reserve has retained much of the original character of the area and will give people a good idea of what Durban looked like when the first settlers arrived. A 500-m walk with observation points traverses this coastal bush reserve.
Durban Botanical Garden: The Durban Botanical Garden is a study in green. It was established to preserve the lush indigenous vegetation of the area and its 20 ha contain trees, shrubs and an impressive collection of cycads.
Fitzsimons Snake Park: Fitzsimons Snake Park houses more than half of South Africa’s 157 species of snakes.
Mitchell Park: Mitchell Park provides a sanctuary for endangered and convalescing birds.
North Park Nature Reserve: The North Park Nature Reserve presents the ideal opportunity to observe the animal and bird life typical to the coastal forest region.
Sea World: Sea World has a world-famous aquarium, oceanarium and dolphinarium that will open your eyes to the secrets of the ocean.
The aquarium has a magnificent display of fish that will astound and intrigue. Fish in the reef tank are handfed daily by a diver at 11:00 and 15:30. Shark feedings take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 12:30. Also not to be missed are the dolphin, seal and penguin demonstrations held daily at the dolphinarium.
Umgeni River Bird Park: The Umgeni River Bird Park is widely considered to be the best bird park in the country. It features large walk-through aviaries in a natural environment.
History And Architecture
Addington Hospital Museum: The Addington Hospital Museum has an excellent display of nineteenth-century medical equipment.
Bergheil Museum: The Bergheil Museum is dedicated to the German settlers who came to the area in 1848.
Campbell Collections: The Campbell Collections of archival resources are housed in Muckleneuk House. The Cape-Dutch style home was built for the sugar baron Marshall Campbell and his family. The Killie-Campbell Africana Library contains the world’s best collection of books on South Africa and the photographic collection covers the history of South Africa over the past two centuries. The William Campbell Picture Collection includes some of the best works of well-known black South African artists as well as Barbara Tyrrell’s paintings of traditional Zulu life and customs. The Mashu Museum of Ethnology houses an invaluable collection of traditional African cultural artefacts.
Cato Manor Heritage Centre: Once the site of forced removals, Cato Manor is now a multi¬million Rand development. The heritage centre documents the interesting history of the area.
Churchill Monument: Churchill Monument marks the spot where Winston Churchill gave a speech in 1899 after his escape from prison in Pretoria during the Anglo-Boer War.
Coedmore Castle: This gracious old family home was built in 1885 to resemble a castle.
Dick King Memorial: The Dick King Memorial, a statue of a horse, commemorates the historic ride (1 000km in 10 days) undertaken from Durban to Grahamstown by Dick King in 1842, to get help for the British garrison in Durban which was besieged by the Boers.
Durban City Hall: The Durban City Hall is of particular interest to architecture and history buffs. It is an exact replica of the City Hall in Belfast, Ireland. It was opened in 1910 and features a bust of Sir Benjamin D’Urban.
Durban Natural Science Museum/Kwazuzulwazi Science Centre: The Durban Natural Science Museum, on the first floor of the City Hall in Smith Street, has a number of imaginative collections on view. The reconstructions of dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies are very impressive.
Jumma Musjid Mosque: The Jumma Musjid Mosque dates back to the late 1880s and is also often called the Grey Street Mosque. Tours include talks on the Islamic faith and views of the inside of the mosque. Strict clothing requirements are still regarded and women are required to cover their heads and shoulders and preferably wear long skirts that cover their legs. Robes are provided for those who forget. Visitors are also not allowed to enter with their shoes on.
Kwa Muhle Museum: The Kwa Muhle Museum is housed in the former Department of Native Affairs building in Ordnance Road, close to the city centre. The museum focuses on the country’s Apartheid past. Today, Cato Manor is an informal settlement and the site of one of the most ambitious urban renewal programmes in South Africa.
Local History Museum: Highlights of the Local History Museum include replicas of early trading stores and some period costumes. An annex, the KwaMuhle Museum on Ordnance Road, presents South African history from the African perspective.
Maritime Museum: The World War II minesweeper, SAS Durban, the IR Moore steam tug and a pilot boat, the Ulundi, are all on display. The museum itself is built on a small tugboat in Durban’s small-craft harbour.
Monuments and Memorials: Some other city monuments and memorials include the Queen Victoria Statue, the Robinson Memorial (John Robinson was the first Prime Minister of the Colony of Natal), the Smuts Monument (in honour of statesman Jan Smuts), the Volunteer Monument (in honour of local victims of the Anglo-Boer War), the Louis Botha Monument, the George V Monument, the Voortrekker Cairn and Plaques to British soldiers.
Natal Railway Museum: The Natal Railway Museum is a must for steam train enthusiasts.
Old House Museum: The Old House Museum, the home of the former mayor of the city, depicts life during the times of the settlers.
Sri Vaithianatha Easvarar Hindu Temple: The Sri Vaithianatha Easvarar Hindu Temple in Umgeni Road represents an important part of the Hindu history of Durban.
Temple of Understanding: The Temple of Understanding was designed by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It is a magnificent architectural creation, characterised by golden steeples and a moat. The temple serves lovely vegetarian lunches and tours of the building are conducted.
Time Warp Museum: This is just the place for the nostalgic surfer! Honouring the surfer tradition of Durban, the Time Warp Museum houses a collection of surfboards dating from the 1930s to the present day, as well as other surfing memorabilia.
Miniature Railway/Durban City of Model Engineers: The Durban society of model railways holds an exhibition on the second Sunday of each month.
Sugar Mills: Guided tours of the Durban sugar mills are both informative and entertaining.