Friday, June 01, 2007

City of Gold

What an odd place Johannesburg is. (I've been reliably informed I can also call if Jozi, but I don't feel I know the city well enough to be so familiar).

City of gold, though, it is. Especially as sunset approaches. On the drive from the aiport yesterday, and again today, from my hotel room, the place does indeed glow as the setting sun catches the dust and the exhaust fumes

I'm staying in a place called Melrose Arch. What was here originally, I don't know, but today it's a little 'pod' of business headquarters, banks, restaurants and coffee shops. Residential apartments are under construction on the edge, pushing the perimeter out into the badlands. Soon you'll be able to live, work, work-out, and eat (as long as you like sushi and latte) in the pod without ever having to leave.

It's not exactly a gated suburb - it's too small for that and the security is understated rather than of the razor-wire-electric-fence variety. However, you definitely get the feeling that right of admission is reserved. It's not a colour thing here - there as many mobile phone-toting black businessmen and immaculately groomed African women here as Gordon Gekko and Hilton-esque whiteys. It's money that buys you into Melrose.

I feel positively underdressed and underpaid, but it's interesting being a 6'6" fly on the wall here for a couple of days.

Money. The place positively oozes it. Why, I wonder would someone drive a black Lamborgini in a city where car thieves use AK 47s in lieu of coat hangers? In today's paper was a story of someone who ran over a woman and child in their 4x4 while trying to escape a car jacker. You'd think people would try and hide their wealth here, but that's not the case.

The hotel bar's a laminated version of a dark-pannelled, deep-armchaired gentleman's club, complete with antique books by the yard. Fat men with gold chains are giving a laptop presentation to a Chinese delegation; a group of young Indian guys are playing billiards; a black guy's snogging a platiumum blonde on the leather lounge by the fire and me and the Aussie miner are fighting off jetlag with Castle Lagers.

No one's embarrassed by their wealth here, nor are they scared of the crime that, presumably, lurks beyond the borders of this billionaire's Brigadoon. I spoke to a couple of people over coffee this afternoon who could comfortably talk about murder rates and urban renewal in the same breath. Strangers who told me Johannesburg's an unfriendly, cliquey place (having just met me four minutes earlier), but they wouldn't live anywhere else.


Very odd.


Di Fazekas said...

Hi Tony, Have a great trip- lucky bugger!!! I am turning green! Diana Fazekas

Gargoyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gargoyle said...

Still a place of great contrast, as it was 25 years ago, it sounds. I remember my parents taking me there when I was about 15. Many vivid images remain in my memory...

No doubt these scenes will be burnt into yours forever too.

Very envious right now, too!

tonypark said...

Thanks all for the comments.

Blogging to you live from joburg airport now, en route to Zimbabwe.

We're in Harare for the weekend than hopefully heading south, and hopefully not leaving a trail of gearbox oil in our wake.

Had a fillet steak, a couple of
Castles and a bottle of Nederburg Baronne in the Spur last night.

Just like coming home.

Hann said...

The Spur, you went to the Spur!!
Bastards! he he he I'm allowed to say it.
Take lots of photo's pleazeeeee!
Enjoy and stay safe pleazeeeeee!
Are you coming back via Perth you two? Bringing my pressie from home? (now I get it, I can black mail you - no pressie from Africa - no translation, but uhmmm oops I still want a signed book! Bugger I never win.

Hann said...

Oh forgot to say: if you are back in SA in the north maybe and need help or advice, let me know and I'll send you dad's phone number! They are in Ellisras (north west) , sure he will have some contacts, he use to order spares for the mine's vehicles.