Urban cultures

Urban Cultures Feature Image

Written by Supernova

Feb 24, 2022

Get to know each SA city’s unique urban pulse

When you hear the word ‘city’, you probably think of buildings. But what really makes a city is its people. Just like people, cities can have personalities. Every city in the world has its own mood, vibe, and feel. Climb in your imagination plane and let’s get to know some of the cities of South Africa and their urban cultures! 

The City of Gold: Johannesburg (aka Joburg, aka eGoli (isiZulu), aka Jozi)

Joburg’s vibe

Johannesburg lives by the ‘work hard, play hard’ motto.  There are bookshops, old record shops, and art galleries mixed in with all the electronics shops, tall office buildings, and fancy malls. And even though it’s a city of business, there’s also a lot of nature – Joburg is one of the biggest urban forests (a city full of trees) in the world, and there are calm places where you can escape the hustle and bustle, like the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo Lake park .

“I love how liberating living in Johannesburg feels. There’s an openness to creativity and you’re bound to find a tribe of like-minded individuals who can help bring your vision to life, or just be there to support you and that’s one of the most beautiful things I get to experience.”

 Moonga Kapambwe (24), Joburg local

How many people live in Joburg? 13.774 million (or about enough to fill 28 000 aeroplanes)

Om nom nom…

Take a loaf of bread. Cut a quarter off the end. Hollow out all the soft bread in the middle. Stuff it full of chips, cheese, polony, egg, and atchar (a spicy chutney). Voila! You’ve made a kota, also called a spatlo

Urban city of Johannesburg
Get This!
Joburg is home to the tallest building in Africa, a skyscraper, named The Leonardo, in Sandton. It is about as tall as 113 giraffes standing on top of each other!

The Mother City: Cape Town (aka Kaapstad (Afrikaans) aka iKapa (isiXhosa)

Cape Town’s Vibe:

Cape Town is artsy, chilled out and very popular. A lot of the people you meet in Cape Town will be tourists from Europe, America or other parts of Africa. Many of the other people will have moved to Cape Town from somewhere else. Capetonians love to surf, skateboard, hike and of course spend time on the beautiful beaches. A lot of Capetonians work in the film industry, advertising or marketing. 

“I feel like Cape Town always has a surprise for me. There’s always something to sweep me off my feet, in a good way or a bad way, or sometimes both. And it has that perfectly-strung energy that calms my anxiety and gets me all charged up and excited for life at the same time.” 

– Aimee-Claire Smith (21), Cape Town resident

How many people live in Cape Town? 3.81 million (or enough to fill 19 050 aeroplanes)

Must see!

Table Mountain (originally named ‘Hoerikwaggo’, which means ’mountain of the sea’, by the Khosian people of the Cape) is the biggest tourist attraction in Africa. Over 855 000 people from around the world visit Table Mountain a year! 

Urban city of Cape Town
Get this!
The first human heart transplant in the world happened in Cape Town, at the Groote Schuur Hospital. 

The City of Jacarandas: Pretoria (aka ePitoli (Zulu) aka Tshwane aka The 012)

Pretoria’s Vibe:

Pretoria is the perfect mix of urban chaos and suburban peace. The sprawling Capital City is a place where residents move in and stay for years. From Monday to Friday, it’s business as usual, but come the weekend, locals find rest in its parks, botanical gardens and reserves, and their own backyards by making a braai, watching the game and soaking up the hot, sunny days. 

“When I think of Pretoria, I think of a place that celebrates spring by dressing up in all shades of pink and purple. We are known for the Jacarandas and we are proud of them. When I think of Pretoria, I think of home. Pretoria is a place that can be very busy, very vibrant, and very alive if it wants to be, but it can also be calm, peaceful, patient, slow. It’s a whole big mix of diversity, and it’s beautiful. Pretoria does have its flaws; it’s got a long way to go. But what that means is that Pretoria is a story that is still being written.” 

– Puno Selesho (24), Pretoria local

How many people live in Pretoria? 2.125 million (or about enough to fill 10 625 aeroplanes)

Must see!

The Union Buildings in Pretoria is where the South African government has all its offices. The building is surrounded by the Union Gardens where there’s a huge statue of Nelson Mandela, that is also the biggest Mandela statue in the whole world. It’s nine metres high! 

Urban city of Pretoria
Get this!
It’s now cut in two and called Stanza Bopape and WF Nkomo, so I don’t think this fact is true anymore. 

Surf City: Durban (aka Durbs aka eThekwini (Zulu)

Durban’s Vibe: 

Durban is sunny and lively in its own way. Durban has a rich and colourful culture that is represented by its multi-cultural locals. Durbanites love to dance, especially to gqom music, which means ‘drum’ in Zulu and is a South African electro music. There is no SA resident who can stomach a seriously spicy curry quite like a Durbanite. And, of course, there is a passion for surfing. Also, true locals wear slip-slops – all the time!

“It’s quite a sleepy town, everything is a lot more relaxed than Cape Town or Joburg. There’s a fairly close community, so, if you grow up in Durban, you end up knowing everyone. Your ‘Durban accent’ will always be made fun of, so you just have to learn to live with it.” 

– Fern (20), Durban local

How many people live in Durban? 3.8 million. That’s almost enough to fill 19 000 aeroplanes!

Om nom nom…

Durbanites love curry. One favourite way to eat curry in Durban is called ‘bunny chow’. To make bunny chow, you cut a loaf of bread in half, hollow it out, and then fill it with curry and beans! 

Urban city of Durban
Get this!
Durban was originally called ‘Terra do Natal’ by Vasco da Gama when he visited in 1497. It has the busiest container port in Africa and is now the 9th largest harbour in the world!

The Friendly City: Port Elizabeth (aka PE aka The Windy City)

The Vibe:

PE is charming, chilled-out and drenched in sun, like a neon-coloured slushie on a hot day. The whole of PE is tinged blue with the haze of the sea. PE is beautiful, calming, and warm, like a hug from someone you love. Everyone in PE is really, really chilled out, and most people in PE loves sports, especially cricket. 

“The vibe of PE is chilllllll. It’s known to us as ‘PEasy’ because it’s so relaxed. It’s such a small town because everyone is connected and it’s more of a family community, everyone knows everyone’s business.”

– Jean Stephenson (19) Port Elizabeth local

How many people live in PE? 1.3 million (or enough to fill 6 500 aeroplanes)

Must see!

The Route 67 tour walks you through PE, stopping at 67 pieces of graffiti and public art which all symbolise Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work for freedom in South Africa. It also includes a flight of 67 stairs which leads up to the biggest South African flag, in the world. The art includes sculptures, murals, paintings, and statues. What better way to experience a city than through art?

Urban city of Port Elizabeth
Get this!
There’s a Guinness World Record for ‘Most vuvuzelas blown simultaneously’. It’s held by the 12 511 Port Elizabethans who vuvuzela-ed everyone’s ears off on 23 July 2009, at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

This article first appeared in Supernova Volume 9.1

Words by Aimee-Claire Smith

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You may also like…

Pin It on Pinterest