Rosebank Craft Market: Good selection of African crafts
By far the widest range of crafts in Johannesburg is to be found at the Rosebank Flea market, which is a Sunday institution for tourists and locals alike. However, if your visit doesn't coincide with a Sunday, then don't despair, as the adjacent African Craft Market is open seven days a week.
The Craft Market offers a good range of crafts and curios - mostly with an African theme - and is certainly better value for money than the overpriced craft stores that you'll come across in shopping malls.
If you're looking for something typically South African, then be sure to ask the stallholder about the origin of the goods that you're considering buying, as there's quite a lot of West African stuff on sale.
What to buy: Just about all artforms are represented. I particularly like the ornamental beadwork and the artwork, although there's probably something to suit virtually every taste and budget.
As many of the items are of organic origin (wooden carvings, basketwork, ostrich egg), inform yourself on your country's particular customs requirements before you leave in order to avoid having your beloved souvenirs confiscated - Australia and New Zealand are partcularly strict.
China Town in Cyrildene: Looking for groceries from the Far East?
In times gone by, Johannesburg's China Town was located on the western fringe of the CBD, close to the notorious John Vorster Square police headquarters.
In recent years, the focus of the Chinese community has shifted (appropriately) eastwards to the former Jewish suburb of Cyrildene, close to the Eastgate shopping centre. These days, Derrick Avenue is lined with a bewildering array of shops, supermarkets and other service providers to the Chinese - and broader South East Asian - market and wandering along there is like stepping into a completely different world.
One of my favourite things to do when I'm travelling is to explore supermarkets, and I have a particular fondess for Chinese supermarkets, as much of my cooking is Asian-inspired. Derrick Avenue boasts any number of small Chinese supermarkets and grocers as well as a Thai supermarket, and between them, you can find pretty well everything you'd need to cook up an Oriental storm. I come here periodically to stock up on sauces (nam pla, rice vinegar, various types of soy and sweet chilli sauce) as well as tins of coconut milk, deep fried shallots and packet mixes of various marinades, that I would pay infinitely more for in conventional supermarkts (assuming that I could find them there in the first place).
There is only one thing harder than finding someone who speaks English on Derrick Avenue, and that's finding someone who will accept a credit card. This is a strictly 'cash only' community whose relationship with the Receiver of Revenue is distant at best, so if you want to shop or dine here, make sure that you have cash in hand! If you are caught short, then there's a cash machine in the petrol garage just up from the intersection of Derrick Avenue and Marcia Street.
Gecko Jewellers, Crowthorne Village: Fancy half a hundredweight of howlite, doll?
I'm a miserable failure as a Material Girl - keep me supplied with travel opportunities, books, good food and tea and beer on tap and I'll love you forever - so in a city where shopping is considered to be both a religion and a sport, I'm really out on a limb.
However, if ever I were to revise my opinion and consider embracing retail therapy, I think that Gecko Jewellers might well provide the catalyst. I was recently here for one of my daughter's friend's birthday party and as I was already there, I decided to wander around the shop. And then had to depart rapidly, lest my credit card should leap unassisted from my handbag and present itself to the cashier ... ;)
What to buy: Precious stones don't interest me much as they are too expensive and too impractical to wear often enough to justify the expenditure: hell, I don't even have an engagement ring, because our (even then ancient) Pajero had a catastophic breakdown around the time when we got engaged, and the choice was either to fix the car or buy the rock. Understandably, fixing the car won out, and a dozen years later is still going (and indeed traversed the Roof of Africa earlier this year) - however, if and when she finally goes to the Great Scrapheap in the Sky, we'll have to come up with an innovative piece of jewellery that incorporates the head gasket!
Anyway, I digress. To quote Shania Twain, precious stones "don't impress me much", but semi-precious stones are a whole different matter, and as a recovering geologist, I was agog at the sheer breadth of the range on offer. Howlite??? HOWLITE??? Who's heard of howlite??? (Until then, I confess that I hadn't, but it does sound like the perfect accessory for Halloween).
The jewellery is not cheap, but probably falls within the affordable range for most tourists who can afford an air ticket to South Africa, and the designs are exquisite. This is a shop that all husbands, fiancés and Significant Others need to know about For Their Own Good (preferably to make purchases under strict supervision)!
And for those who aren't into jewellery? Well, I can safely say that this is the only place I've ever come across where you can buy mineralised rock in bulk (see my other photo). So whether you're in search of 2kg of calcite shards to set off your indoor cactus garden to perfection, or a tonne of malachite waste to elevate your water feature to another level (this is after all Big Brash Jo'burg, doll), this is the place for you!
P.S. Howlite (also known as white buffalo turquoise) is a calcium borosilicate hydroxide (Ca2B5SiO9(OH)5) found in evaporite deposits. But of course you already knew that ... ;)
Buying diamonds in South Africa (or anywhere else)
South Africa is famed for its diamonds, entire towns - most notably Kimberley, Cullinan and Alexander Bay - were built almost exclusively on the back of the diamond mining industry. It may no longer be the world's largest diamond producer - that honour belongs to neighbouring Botswana these days, and the mantle looks likely to pass to Russia in the near future - but the association between South Africa and diamonds is one that's well established in most visitors' minds.
So, on the face of it, South Africa might seem like a cheap place to buy diamonds - especially if you're planning to get engaged during your time here. Well, the answer is yes and no ...
Anyone planning to buy a diamond should at least know that the price (and future value) of the stone is dependent on the 'Four Cs': carats (size) clarity, colour and cut. The price of diamonds is fixed on the international market, so the only negotiability in price is the commission charged by middlemen and the jeweller (which is why you can usually get a better price if you can find a diamond wholesaler). So anyone contemplating buying a diamond would be well advised to first do their homework online and/or in their home country to get an idea of the cost of the particular type of stone they're considering. And if a deal looks 'too good to be true' in terms of price, then it generally is.
Probably the greatest saving that you'll make by buying a diamond here is by reclaiming the Value Added Tax on goods purchased, which is at 14% at the time of writing in September 2012. So keep the receipt and arrive at the airport a little early before your departure so that you can claim your refund: 14% of the value of a good quality diamond is a tidy sum.
Anybody buying a diamond should ask to be issued with a certificate that confirms that the diamond complies with the Kimberley Process. This was an initiative established by the diamond producers to combat the 'blood diamond' trade by confirming the provenance of the stone (and the fact that it has not been produced using child or forced labour, for instance). However, it also serves as further confirmation that it is a genuine diamond, as it is not possible to secure a Kimberly process stone for fakes. If the dealer is not able to provide you with this certificate, then you should be very wary indeed.
Unfortunately there are no equivalent processes for other precious stones, but the same principles in terms of being extremely wary of 'overly cheap' precious stones still apply. Burmese 'rubies', Sri Lankan 'sapphires', Columbian 'emeralds' and - particularly relevant in Africa - 'genuine tanzanite' are all easily simulated with either coloured glass or low grade stones that have been heat treated, and I would certainly not trust my ability to distinguish between the fakes and the genuine article.
Lastly, jewellery is seldom a good - or even average - investment, and with a few rare exceptions (such as jewellery with historic significance), the value of an item with time is usually less than the cost of the stones and the metal for the setting. By all means buy expensive jewellery if you've fallen in love with the item and know that wearing it will bring you or your loved one pleasure, but if you view it as an 'asset' that will appreciate in value in the future, then you're straying onto very dangerous ground.
If you're looking for a reliable local diamond jeweller, Browns has a reputation for quality and strictly adheres to the requirements of the Kimberley process.
Love Jozi: Hooked on the Johannesburg skyline!
Love Jozi is a wonderful store specialising in Jo'burg-inspired design. Living in a self conscious city that too often sees itself as the poor cousin of the more beautiful (but oh so precious) Cape Town, it's so refreshing to find a company that celebrates Jo'burg's unique vibe rather than apologising for it.
If you enjoyed your time in Jo'burg and are looking for a memento to mark your time here, then perhaps this Johannesburg skyline key rack is for you? The price was a reasonable R290 at the time of writing (May 2012) and it's available in black as well as green.
Purists (such as myself) might argue that this skyline is an amalgamation of landmarks rather than an accurate geographical reflection of what you'll see on the horizon come sundown, but the bottom line is that the highlights (the Hillbrow Tower, the Carlton Centre, Nelson Mandela Bridge and Brixton Tower) are all included, so who's petty enough to quibble?
I like this so much that I am still trying to work out how I can integrate this wonderful and functional piece of urban design into my own home!
Love Jozi: The hadeda as a fashion icon!
Love Jozi is the best of stores catering to the tourist market because it's so original and tongue-in-cheek.
Take this T shirt, for instance. Let's face it, the list of Johannesburg style icons is fairly brief, so embracing the city's most hated bird, the hadeda ibis is sheer genius!!!
The hadeda - which is only ever known by its first name - is a fairly new but raucous arrival to Johannesburg. It is best known for its earsplitting, strangulated croak, which has become an unwelcome feature of suburban Johannesburg, and chances are that if you spend any time here, being woken by its less than dulcet tones will be one of your abiding memories. In so many ways, it is typical of Jo'burg: loud, unexpected but brashly endearing, and utterly unique!
The Oriental Plaza: Joburg's oldest 'mall'
When I was a little girl the place where one went to buy material or household goods was in “Fietas” on 14th Street. Vrededorp. Ironically named, for “Vrededorp” means “Peace Town”. It was declared a white area and the Indian traders were relocated in the early seventies to the Oriental Plaza as we know it today. Now here's a unique feature. Each of the three hundred and six shops is owned, not rented, by the store owner, and it is run through a body corporate which manages the complex. The business district where white people shopped is still only about a kilometre or two away from “town”, the then CBD. The residents of Vrededorp and Pageview were moved thirty kilometres away to Lenasia (Indian) and Eldorado Park (Coloured) some thirty kilometres away.
The Oriental Plaza is one of the oldest malls in South Africa. It covers 17 hectares in three sections, north, south and a central three-story circular building known as the “Grand Bazaar”. There is lots of parking, but on a Saturday it is always inadequate, with more people wanting to shop there than there is place for them. I strongly recommend that you avoid the place on a Saturday if you can. There are well over a million shoppers per month visiting the Plaza and it will seem as if all of them are present on whichever Saturday you choose.
It is a safe place to visit, with lots of security guards patrolling the place, both in the centre itself and in the parking lots outside. Report anyone who bothers you to a security guard. The body corporate has a recognised charity programme which provides blankets in winter, as well as supporting the annual Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Walk and Run.
The Oriental Plaza is an established tourist attraction and most visitors I have taken there have found it interesting. Famous shoppers include Graca Machel, wife of former president Nelson Mandela.
There are little restaurants where one can get authentic Indian food. There is a Muslim one on the south side, the name of which escapes me at the moment and the Hindu “Golden Peacock” on the north side. I recommend their samoosas. Take some home for lunch or an evening snack. If you like your tea served graciously, avoid ordering tea.
There are plenty of ATM machines, but the particular bank you want may be on the other side of the complex.
It is open from Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00 and on Satudays from 09:00 to 15:00. In December it usually has extended shopping hours. Be aware that most (Muslim) shops are closed on a Friday at about noon for about an hour for Friday prayers. I strongly recommend getting there early in the day, especially if you MUST visit on a Saturday.
The toilets are pay per use toilets, a very unusual feature in South Africa. I live around the corner, give or take a few kilometres, so have never needed to avail myself of the facilities.
The Oriental Plaza is situated between Bree Street (north) and Main Street (south) between Lilian and Malherbe Streets.
What to buy: I get my cellphone accessories, watch batteries, spices, haberdashery and material at the Plaza. I also usually, but not invariably, buy crockery, cutlery and toys at the Plaza. One of the shops is named “Help My Krap” which means “Help Me Scratch” and one literally has to dig down into the piles of material to find what one wants. I do not use the tailors at the Plaza, but occasionally make use of the cobbler on the southern side.
What to pay: There are lots of bargains to be had, but not everything there is automatically cheaper. Know your prices before you go there. You are welcome to haggle, or at least bargain politely, with the traders, but be aware that they know what can be obtained elsewhere at what price.
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Artists Under the Sun, Zoo Lake: Select your own vision of Africa
I think that there is no better souvenir of a place than to incorporate some of its artwork into your living space.
There are talented artists worldwide, but I would like to fondly believe that South African artists are more than a match for their international peers. The range of styles and techniques is vast, and their work offers you boundless opportunity to choose the vision which best captures your impression of your South African experience.
In addition to the cheaper and more ethnically inspired art, which you'll find in most craft and flea markets (including the excellent Rosebank Craft Market, which is open 7 days a week), there is a fine art market at Zoo Lake on the first Sunday of every month. This gives you an added benefit in that you can chat with the artists about their work, rather than buying an anonymous piece of art whose history and inspiration you know nothing about.
I was there last weekend, and was particularly taken with the cheetah painting in the foreground of the photo opposite. The picture was almost photographic in its detail and perfectly captured the essence of the animal: it was so realistic that if it had been set amid long grass, you could almost have believed that the cat was real!
The cost for the cheetah was R8,500 (about US$1,000). Considering that it is by a well known artist (Steve Jones), this is not a lot to ask. Art in flea/craft markets starts at about R100, depending on size, medium and whether it is framed or not.
The artists/galleries will be able to assist you in packing your masterpiece (or shipping it separately) to ensure that you get it home in pristine condition.
sandton city shopping mall: everthing you need and prices are ok
Situated in the prestigious Sandton Central Management District in Northern Johannesburg
What to buy: everthing about world brands and non brands...
i bought house staff from Mr.price home
oishtrish egg .... from "wild africa" but was double the price i got from hartsbeesport because it have more carvings and for sure the place itself....
What to pay: not less than 5 dollars per thing......
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Bigger craft markets: Bring home a bit of Africa for Christmas!
We love markets and enjoy collecting crafts on our travels, but face the perennial problem of where to put it all without transforming the house into a curio store. So, for what it's worth, this is my solution ...
Our Christmas tree has always been the focal point of our family - my German grandmother was the first person to have a Christmas tree in my Dad's home village in Ireland back in the 1930s, and some of my most prized possessions are a few of her homemade ornaments which I religiously place in pride of place on my tree each year. When I left home, my own mother gave me a 'starter pack' of decorations from our childhood tree to start my own (a tradition that I will continue with my own kids) and I have been collecting ever since!
Everywhere we go, we buy something for our tree - we're not purists, so it doesn't necessarily need to be colour coordinated or even Christmas themed (there are, for example, balsa wood humming birds from Peru, a wooden orang utan from Borneo and pottery figures from the Czech Republic), but when we put up our tree, it is a very special ritual that celebrates our family identity (of which travel is a huge part!)
What to buy: So, what can you by in Johannesburg that would fit the bill? Well, the answer is, loads, and even better, most of it is light and easily transportable! I love the beadwork ornaments (photos to follow) which transform a traditional artform into something contemporary and funky. All sorts of Christmas tree baubles covered with colourful beadwork, or small wire and bead ornaments are available. Prices obviously vary, but you should be looking at between R20 and R50, depending on size and complexity, and of course you can negotiate a discount on volume (since I don't think that it's possible to buy just one!). If you're lucky, you may even find a beadwork snowman, which I think is a delicious cultural anacronism in a city where we only see snow about every 20 years (and certainly never at Christmas!) - these involve more work and will probably cost R80 - R100.
My personal favourite at the moment are Christmas angels made out of old beer cans (see photos). Being an environmentalist, I like the recycling aspect - in fact I would happily volunteer to be part of the raw materials generation process - and I love the idea of being inspired by a favourite beverage in adorning the tree (mine features Amstel, Castle and Windhoek!). How better to add some festive cheer(s)???
Oriental Plaza: Cheap, cheerful and (best of all) negotiable!
The Oriental Plaza in Fordsburg (just west of the CBD) owes its origin to the notorious Group Areas Act that was implemented to realise the apartheid Government's vision of separate development paths for each racial group. As a result, residential suburbs were allocated for White, Black, Coloured and Indian settlement, and developed their own support infrastructure.
Fordsburg was zoned an Indian area, and the Oriental Plaza was established to cater for the retail needs of the neighbouring community. The Indian population is generally entrepreneurial with a keen eye for both a bargain and a business opportunity, and it soon became apparent that the Plaza offered excellent value for money.
When I first arrived in Johannesburg in the late 80's, the Plaza was THE place for cash-strapped consumers of all races to buy cut price bed linen and curtains, and at the same time, feast on samoosas (difficult to get in white suburbia those days) and enjoy the frisson of having done something faintly illicit!
I suspect that in its heyday, the Plaza was fairly elegant. However, as long as I've know it, it has been slightly run down and a trifle seedy, not that this matters when you're in hot pursuit of a bargain! I think it's also a great place for people watching, especially on a Saturday morning, when people of all races descend on the place in search of a good deal!
By the way, most of the shopkeepers are Muslim, so note that virtually all the shops close down over lunch time on a Friday - try to time your visit so that you miss the period between about 12:30 and 14:00 to avoid disappointment.
What to buy: It is a bit of an Aladdin's cave, so be prepared to delve into the somewhat pokey stores and rummage for hidden treasure, and don't be afraid to ask for a 'special price', especially where you can justify this as a 'discount on volume' (after all, they can only say no!). I am quite convinced that at the Oriental Plaza, you would be able to buy someone's granny if you tried hard enough - just be prepared to bargain energetically! (What you do with said granny after you've managed to procure her is entirely your indaba)
The Oriental Plaza is big on bling of any sort, so if you're having a Liberace moment and craving sequins and sparkles, this is the place of you! The material shops stock a huge range from workmanlike fabrics to sari silks and will make up items such as curtains for a very reasonable cost.
These days, I still return to the Plaza to buy shoes - there are enough shoe shops to keep Imelda Marcos happy - and they stock out of the usual stuff that you can't always get in the major shopping malls (especially if you have small feet or a taste in shoes that doesn't keep step with mainstream fashion). I loathe shoe shopping - which I rate as being on a par with root canal surgery - but somehow the sense of nostalgia of being back in the Plaza manages to make it a tolerable experience!
Oh yes, and the samoosas are as good as ever! And, seeing as you're in that neck of the woods, why not treat yourself to lunch in one of Fordsburg's many affordable Indian restaurants? (see another of my travel tips)
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East Gate Shopping Mall: Large and Lovely
Well its a very nice shopping mall, it has everyhting that a good shopping mall has from Great Designer Stores , Department Stores , Good Restuarants to name a few.
What to buy: Well Anything and everything.
What to pay: Unfortunately everyhting has a set price here.
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Bright Water Commons: Relaxing Day Out
Well there is various shops here including a flea market and like I said that the atmosphere is so relaxing here its a nice place to take your time and shop.
What to buy: There is Variety
What to pay: Well most of the shops have a set price for their goods but at the flea market you may go ahead and negoited the price.
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Killarney Mall: A cosy and friendly place to shop
Killarney Mall is one of Johannesburg's most established shopping centres. Today the Mall remains unpretentious, posh yet still ultra-stylish and modern with a wide variety of stores and businesses to choose from. Killarney Mall is an under-stated meeting place and can truly be said to be the leader in a new era of intelligent Malls where intelligent people like to shop.
What to buy: There are various outstanding shops at Killarney Mall but here are a few to look out for:
Congo Joe - Enter this dream world of wonderful homeware and you won't be disappointed.
Zwilling Ja Henckels - If you take your kitchen tools seriously, then this one-of-a-kind shop is for you.
Boyes @ us - Carrol Boyes' uniquely South African items are distinctive, admired and enjoyed as beautiful and functional acquisitions for the home.
The Baron Tobacconist - For that special gift, take a look at the extensive range of cigar and pipe accessories, desk sets, pub items and games.
Mugg & Bean - Their famous bottomless coffee cups of freshly roasted coffee are a major attraction and the selection of cakes - many of them baked in-house - is one you have to see to believe.
Chinese Supermarket - a range of authentic Asian gifts.
The Baron Tobacconist
For that special gift, take a look at the extensive range of cigar and pipe accessories, desk sets, pub items and games.
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Rosebank Mall: My favourite mall
There are good shops, restaurants and cafes.
African Craft Market. is my favourite place there.
What to buy: You can buy Sotuhafrican music, there are lots of good bands, from african-jazz to zulu singers.
In the African Craft Market it is easy to find hand craft from all over Africa. Cote d´Ivoire, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique...
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