The ongoing war between Jozi and Cape Town as to who has the best and friendliest city is one that’s been raging since long before any of us can remember.
Cape Town was recently named Africa’s friendliest city, but it’s fair to say that was far from being unanimous. I reckon the crux of that question is friendly to who, exactly?
Durban is that often overlooked city where people chain their cars to street lamps to prevent theft, and where parents are called ‘ballies‘.
Well, move aside Cape Town and Jozi, because someone took notice, and The Guardian is now referring to Durban as home to “South Africa’s most inclusive public space”.
Where fellow oceanside metropolis Cape Town has marketed itself to the world, Durban has positioned itself as South Africa’s playground. Beachfront theme parks and twirling public waterslides attract families from around the country, and all walks of life. This accessibility and affordability have made this eight-kilometre strip arguably one of South Africa’s most inclusive public spaces.
Beyond the narrow strip of beach and promenade, though, South Africa’s third largest city struggles with the same problems as the rest of the country: 25 years after the fall of apartheid the city which was divided by race remains divided by economics.
But it is setting out to address those issues with several new models of growth – the waterfront, a privately funded development of restaurants and retail along Florida Road, and the redesign of the traditional market at Warwick Triangle.
Looks like Durban is on the up and up, starting with a revitalisation of the promenade that started during the 2010 World Cup
Except for one sign that eluded post-apartheid painters, Durban’s beachfront now resembles an idyllic melting pot of South African cultures.
On Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, in particular, the beach is so crowded with people who a generation ago were not allowed on the sand that it could be read as an annual defiance to the country’s old laws.
The city isn’t entirely devoid of the class separation that still haunts South Africa, though.
As a model for inclusivity, it has one major downside: the beaches along the northern suburbs are now an enclave for middle class and wealthier Durbanites, particularly moneyed black tourists who prefer the warmer Indian Ocean to Cape Town’s icy Atlantic.
What’s more, despite its plans for mixed-income development, the new Point Road project looks likely to exclude the largely black, working class communities who have kept Durban’s city centre alive.
The Guardian goes on to sing the praises of Florida Road, where a project by London-based developer Urban Lime hopes to encourage tourists and especially locals to hang out together.
Warwick Market in the Durban city centre also gets a mention for its diversity and atmosphere.
It’s a long, mostly glowing review of the city, which you can read in full here.
Nicely done, Durban.
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