This is the city that’s been my home for the past several weeks and counting.
This coastal city, said to be Cape Town’s big rival and facing the Indian Ocean while Cape Town faces the Atlantic, is said to have the best weather in South Africa. It’s big, sprawling, and just like much of SA, has different areas that are completely different worlds apart. Having been here for quite a while, I’ve become a little attached to it.
The climate is quite good as it’s sunny and hardly rains. When it does rain, it either doesn’t last long or it’s only for one day. Sunny days are said to happen for 330 days each year and the weather stays roughly the same throughout. That didn’t mean I didn’t freeze my ass off some nights but after a while it was manageable after I got over the shock of feeling like I was in Canada (cold-wise).
Durban is especially famous for its Golden Mile, a long stretch of fine sandy beaches that lie unimpeded alongside its coastline. Not being a swimmer or beach person, I didn’t bother to go out on this coastline except for once.
The people and the food really stood out for me. There’s a large Indian population and consequently a wide range of good Indian food across this city. The bunny chow is the most famous food dish and I had it a couple of times. Despite its name, the food doesn’t contain rabbit meat but is a tasty assortment of curry meat and potatoes crammed into a half-loaf of bread. Very filling and very succulent. Other “snacks” like samosas and chili bites are also widely available, even in supermarket delis and they’re good and cheap. I like Taiwan’s “siao chi” dishes a lot as well, especially noodles, but I missed Indian food which I used to have in Trinidad.
One problem about Durban is that much of its downtown isn’t very aesthetically pleasing or considered safe. That doesn’t mean it lacks decent buildings as there are some impressive Victorian buildings like the City Hall, a few modern towers and a gleaming convention center.
I never got the sense that it was as safe to walk around like Cape Town, though it is nowhere as bad as Johannesburg, which has a reputation that literally scares people away. I did go downtown several times by car and walked around places like the Victoria Market and City Hall and the harborfront. I also passed the Jumma Masjid, described as the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere, which is located near Victoria Market. It sounds impressive but in reality it’s a sprawling 2-storey building with stores along its entire first floor which looks really out of place and tacky for a place of worship.
The food, the people and the weather all combined to make it feel like Trinidad at times. Durban has been described as the most African city in South Africa and I’d have to guess maybe it’s something to do with the people within the city, though it’s not a politically correct reason.Not surprisingly it has noticeable divisions, with many of the middle-class and wealthy living in well-off neighborhoods in large houses with spacious yards and walls topped with electrical or razor wire while the rest reside in townships further away from the city to the north and south.
All in all, a nice city with an excellent climate and a nice laidback vibe but not exempt from problems that affect a lot of this great land.