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Once a mining boom-town boasting more gold than El Dorado, Johannesburg has had a tumultuous trajectory into the modern era. Known more for it’s difficult history and infamous crime statistics than its vibrant population and numerous gifts, Jozi is a city attempting to make peace with, but not forget, its past. Johannesburg wears its apartheid-era scars on its surface - yet its wonderfully diverse population looks ever forward to the future.
Though the scars are many, Johannesburg was also an epicenter for resistance, for disobedience, an indelible force towards justice and equality. A visit to the Apartheid Museum is absolutely essential, showcasing detailed exhibits that span early segregation implementation, to the Soweto Uprising (and massacre) that would eventually spell the end of apartheid, to the continuing and lasting effects of one of the most disgusting policies in modern history. Residents of Johannesburg are keenly aware of this painful history and showcase an inspiring dedication to historic justice - Constitutional Hill, a fortress turned apartheid-era prison is now the site of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, a gesture symbolizing an unwavering mission to right past wrongs.
Yet Johannesburg is also incredibly rich with history, both prehistoric and modern, as well as natural gifts. Joburg serves as popular gateway to the incomparable Kruger National Park, home to a high density of increasingly rare wildlife, including the “Big 5” - Elephants, Lions, Rhinos, Leopards and Buffalos. The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO world heritage site, containing the historically fertile Sterkfontein Caves, an active archaeological site unearthing some of the earliest hominid remnants on record. The Origins Centre records a staggering 80,000 years of human culture, located within the city limits. Vilakazi Street in Soweto housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mahatma Gandhi began his early political career in South Africa, and a statue commemorating his impact as well as his historical residence still stand in Jozi today. And then there is Nelson Mandela, the absolutely beloved anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who is commemorated with countless murals, museums and galleries.
Johannesburg is on the rise, bolstered by its young population. Maboneng District, an up and coming urban enclave housing creative ventures like Arts on Main and the Museum of African Design. Recently revamped Braamfontein transformed from center of urban decay to soho-style neighborhood. The Rosebank Sunday Market is an ever-popular shopping destination and hangout. Soweto, the clever abbreviation for South Western Townships, is a melting pot of history and young culture (though it still suffers from a terribly high crime rate, and traveling there alone and on foot is not recommended). Johannesburg is a historic, yet unpretentious city - so it somehow feels appropriate that it possesses innumerable gifts, just waiting to burst forth into the public consciousness.