Wire and bead sculptures are almost irresistable!
What to buy: (work in progress)
In terms of local crafts, I have yet to come across another place that offers the diversity of artforms and craftsmanship that South Africa does.
My particular favourite is the wire and beadwork art, which is a deritive of the Ndebele beading tradition. Beads are threaded onto stout wire, that is then twisted into myriad shapes, from keyrings through beaded versions of local flowers such as agapanthus and proteas to a range of animal and human figures.
What the craftsmen manage to conjur up from these humble materials is utterly astonishing. My personal favourite is the almost lifesize warthog that presides over our lounge - see below - and the most extreme example I have yet to come across is this figure of Nelson Mandela, that stands outside a gift store in the departure lounge at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg. The artist concerned has managed to capture the man's charisma, and I have to say that it is an awful lot more convincing than the dreadful colossus of a bronze statue in Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton!
However irrevocably you might fall in love with this Mandela figure, it would be almost impossible to bring it home with you, as it's over 2.5 m high, and you'd have to be pretty persuasive to convence the crew to let you take this on board as hand luggage!
What to pay: I would strongly suggest buying these items in crat markets (such as the excellent Rosebank Flea Market) rather than in gift shops, as there is more competition, resulting in both keener prices and a better range.
Simple items such as key rings start from about R15.
Beaded flowers will cost you R100-R150.
Animal figures will start at about R250, and range up into the thousands for particularly large and/or complex figures.
Help with packing your bags in supermarkets
(work in progress)
One thing that you'll note in South Africa is that because labour is still relatively cheap, anything that contains a service component tends to be cheaper than in the developed world.
Another area where this becomes apparent is in the 'free' services that various business routinely offer their customers. for example, in supermarkets, you will routinely be assisted in packing your bags (in Woolworths, the cashier also does the packing, and elsewhere - such as at Pick'n'Pay supermarket above, the till is manned by a cashier and a packer). The logic is not just convenience to the consumer, but job creation, whereby two jobs are created rather than one. I won't pretend that the salaries are princely, but I think that most people would agree that it's better than no job at all. A similar logic applies at service/petrol/gas stations, where forecourt attendants will fill up your car and perform basic maintenance tasks (windscreen cleaning, checking of oil, water and tyre pressure) at no charge.
You should pay a nominal fee for your plastic bags - the outcome of a very successful initiative about ten years to reduce plastic waste litter at a time when the plastic bag was in danger of becoming South Africa's national flower - but you are not expected to tip the packer. However, given that this is a free and very welcome service, I would encourage you to thank the packer, preferably by name, as most wear name badges.
Planetarium/Tourist Shop: Sky Guide Africa South 2012
One of my favourite little books to use for sky happenings this past year was the Sky Guide 2011. It went on trips to countryside where light pollution is less of a problem than in the big city and it was actually used. I looked forward to receiving the 2012 edition with some eager anticipation.
Inflation has seen a small rise in price from R85 to R95, but at under R100, this is still a very reasonably priced pocket guide to the Southern African night sky.
As in previous editions the monthly sky diary is supplemented by information phrased simply enough for non-scientific types like me to follow, and they include information on the sun, moon, planets, asteroids, comets, meteors, stars, deep sky, basic observing skills, seasonal start charts and a history of astronomy in Southern Africa. The information is largely different to that of the information contained in the 2011 book.
This year a slightly expanded and newly laid out glossary which is easier to read than previously is included. Don't throw last year's Sky Guide out. The list of useful websites from the 2011 book is not included for 2012.
A 2012 Moon Phase calendar has been included this year. Neither of the moon eclipses for next year will be exciting in South African skies.
Like with the 2011 edition there are fact boxes scattered throughout the book. Some of these relatet to South African indigenous names and legends, making it particularly interesting to South Africans or visitors to South Africa. For example, the Sun is known as “zuva” in Shona … and “ilanga” in Zulu and Xhosa. Some Zulus believe that the Sun dies when it sets, being devoured by a race of pygmies, and a new Sun is born in the east every day. A Bushman (San) tale tells how the Sun is really a rhinoceros. When it goes down in the west it is killed and eaten by the people who life there, who then throw the shoulder blade of the animal to the east where it is reborn. (Similar story, with small points of difference).
All in all this is once again a fascinating, reasonably priced book which still deserves a place with one's binoculars in the glove compartment of one's vehicle as one travels at night.
Title: Sky Guide Africa South 2012
Subtitle: Astronomical Handbook for Southern Africa
Publishers: Astronomical Society of Southern Africa and Struik Nature (joint project)
What to buy: This sky guide will probably be available at good bookshops everywhere, like Exclusive Books, tourist shops in game parks and at Planetariums and Observatories.
What to pay: The recommended price is R95.00. My bet is that the game parks shops will be more expensive.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Budget Travel
Any music store: What to buy for the little ones at home?
What to buy: It is often difficult for parents and grandparents to find something original to buy for the kids back home - for frequent travellers in particular, YET another cuddly toy or a T shirt will probably fail to elicit an enthusiastic response.
If you are looking for a gift for younger kids (say 7 and below), consider buying one (or more) of the brilliant Beautiful Creatures CDs by Ed Jordan and Alan Glass. They feature animal-themed songs that are tuneful, informative (and scientifically robust - there's even one on the correct use of collective nouns!) with a strong ecological message, and make for very pleasant listening even when you're hearing them for the 400th time! The animals they celebrate are all local, and include some weird and wonderful beasts (for example, buffaloes and bullfrogs) as well as the Usual Suspects - well, you would need to get a bit creative in your subject matter if you were up to a CD called Even More Beautiful Creatures (following on from Beautiful Creatures and More Beautiful Creatures).
Sample titles include Henry the Hungry Hadeda (a local extremely raucous form of ibis), The Last Chameleon and Horace the Hilarious Hyaena.
There are also other titles by the same artists: Beautiful Me (about being a kid, which is also very good, and deals with issues such as temper management) and one on Beautiful Creatures of the Sea (which has never really excited me as much).
After nearly 7 years of being subjected to children's music and feeling like The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round was going to do my head in if I heard it one more time, Beautiful Creatures are definitely my favourite (in fact I have even been known to play The Big Five Jive for my own personal entertainment from time to time!)
What to pay: R80-R120 per CD, depending on the storeRelated to:
Book or TV documentary series: The South African Story with Archbishop Tutu
This book, according to the back cover is “based on the 10-part documentary television series of the same name. “The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu” is a travelogue with a difference. Created by veteran journalists Roger Friedman and Benny Gool, and taking in all the country's nine provinces, it is a colourful tapestry which brings together the vibrancy and warmth of the diverse people of South Africa and the spectacular beauty of their land.”
Desmond Tutu is one of South Africa's most famous citizens, a Nobel Prize winner and once neighbour of fellow Nobel Prize laureate, Nelson Mandela, in Vilikazi Street, Soweto. He has lived and worked in South Africa all his life. He is passionately patriotic and he is wonderfully inspirational and entertaining.
Richly illustrated with sumptious photographs the order in which he deals with the provinces, and the sub-title for each of them is:
Western Cape – Cape of Storms
Free State – Riding the Plains
North West – Platinum Province
Mpumalanga – Land of the Rising Sun
Limpopo – Land of Myths and Legends
Gauteng – A Tale of Three Cities
Northern Cape – Diamond Province
Eastern Cape – Liberation Route
KwaZulu-Natal – Kings and Leaders
The religious basis from which the Archbishop comes is stated clearly in the first vignette: “God did something special here! You really can understand how, when He had created everything God said, “Even if I have to say so, this is pretty good work. Looking at the southernmost point of this African continent, I think I've got to do something special here.” This is a place where two oceans meet, and so God put together the mountains and the plants and produced this fantastic gateway in the south.”
Of Nelson Mandela's release he says: “And it was as though our Berlin Wall had fallen”.
The orangy-gold of the Free State, the maize fields, the sunflowers, the setting sun on the sandstone at Golden Gate, King Moshoeshoe (pronounced Moshweshwe), Winnie Mandela's exile to Brandfort where Desmond Tutu visited with the gift of Holy Communion and the gold under the ground are all explored. It is, however, the sub-title “Riding the Plains” that resonates with the stories my father told me of his father, as a fourteen year old boy who fled the English scorched earth policy towards the end of the Second Anglo Boer War and who spent hundreds of hours “Riding the Plains”. A photograph of a statue entitled “Afskeid” (Taking Leave) showing a woman sending a boer (farmer) to war brings sentimental tears to my eyes.
The Cradle of Humankind straddles Gauteng and the North West Province. Here Tutu visits Maropeng, the second largest deposits of platinum in the world, the Bafokeng heritage sites, with their totem, the crocodile, the Palace of the Lost City, Sun City and the Pilansberg Game Reserve in the beautiful Magaliesburg, and nearby Rustenburg.
Mpumalanga is known to the Siswati and Zulu-speaking residents as “land of the rising sun” is known for the beautiful vistas, the Big Five, the Kruger National Park and the home of Gerard Sekoto, one of South Africa's most prominent artists.
The Myths and Legends of the Limpopo include Mapungubwe, the giant baobabs, cycads, marula trees and wood sculptor Jackson Hlungwani. He ends by saying: “Limpopo is a place of dense bush and ancient secrets. It is a place of inspiration and reconciliation, a touchstone of our past and an ode to our resilience and our future.”
The “three cities” Tutu describes as being part of Gauteng, South Africa's smallest province, are Johannesburg, Pretoria and Soweto. Here I disagree with Tutu. Soweto is not a city on its own, but is a bustling part of the City of Gold, a place without which Egoli would be poorer.
From the smallest to the biggest of the provinces, Northern Cape, takes in the Augrabies Falls, the native Khoikhoi, the diamond fields of Kimberley, Barney Barnato, Cecil John Rhodes, Sol Plaatje and the flowers blooming in the desert.
Of the Eastern Cape Tutu describes Qunu, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, East London where the first hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee under Tutu's chairmanship took place. East London is also the home of the only known dodo egg, and the coelacanth was found here in 1938. Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown and Port St Johns are all discussed.
Archbishop Tutu says: KwaZulu-Natal's story is surely one of the most fascinating to relate, an epic tale of warrior Kings, cultural diversity and breathtaking World Heritage Sites. It is a story told through rock paintings, the rich oral history and the traditions of the great Zulu nation, the arrival of European settlers and sugar plantations and, later, indentured workers from India.” One of South Africa's most famous heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, is associated with KwaZulu-Natal.
This is a charming book and one which both visitors and natives to South Africa's shores can enjoy and appreciate.
Title: The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Narrator”: Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Authors: Roger Friedman and Benny Gool
Recommended Selling Price: R240.00
What to buy: The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an interesting travelogue through the eyes of one of South Africa's best known citizens.
What to pay: R240.00 for the book
Unknown for the ten part documentary seriesRelated to:
- Business Travel
Save 14% on your shopping!
Want to extend your spending money? Well, you'll be delighted to know that visitors can claim back the 14% Value Added Tax (VAT) on purchases exceeding R250 each that they export out of the country! This does not apply to services (such as accommodation and meals), but if you've been a good tourist and donated liberally to our Gross Domestic Product, then this can add up to a sizeable amount. But, as you might expect, it's not quite as easy as that ...
The VAT refund can only be claimed at airports and ports of departure from the country - follow the signs for the VAT Administration Offices. Bear in mind that in order to claim the refund, you will need to present the following documents:
* original tax invoices
* a VAT refund control sheet (pick up one of these from immigration on your way in, where they are on display
* a foreign passport
* the items on which VAT is being reclaimed. This is the real corker, as it means that what you're claiming on needs to be in your hand baggage. If your purchases are too large to be kept as hand luggage, you have the option of presenting the goods and relevant tax invoices at a VAT Refund inspection desk or to a South African Customs official prior to the goods being checked in (which, by now, is probably all getting to be rather too much of a schlep if you're burdened down with all your luggage and in mental departure mode).
Your refund will be made by rand cheque payable anywhere in the world, except South Africa. The cheques may be cashed at the airport banking facility, into a major currency of your choice, but in terms of admin and fees, I would strongly recommend against this option. By far the swifter and simpler option is to have your refund credited to your Visa or Mastercard credit card account
As with all aspects of South African bureaucracy, this is not a speedy process. If this is something that you think is worthwhile doing (and it certainly would be if you've bought items such as jewellery), then allow yourself an extra hour to complete this process.
Sounds complicated? Well, if you were a government, would you make it easy for people to reclaim money from you even if they're entitled to it??? Or am I just cynical???
Any reasonable sized supermarket: A taste of South Africa
Shoprite, Checkers, Pick'n'Pay and Woolworths (in order of increasing price) are probably the most widespread supermarket chains
What to buy: I think that one of the most interesting things to do in a new country is to wander round a supermarket (and peer surruptitiously into fellow shoppers' trolleys) to see what the locals eat! It's also a great way to buy cheap and original gifts, especially for the foodies you left behind at home.
So, what do you buy if you're looking to bring home a taste of South Africa? These are some of the things that South African expats hanker after (even if they seldom touched them when they were at home) - just be warned that some of these are acquired tastes!
* biltong, a dried, seasoned uncooked meat much like beef jerky (and, in my unconverted opinion, the texture of boot leather and the taste of spiced, salted cardboard) - which is eaten as a snack. Beware that many countries don't allow importation of meat products
* rooibos ('red bush') tea, a herbal, caffeine-free tea that is ascribed a whole slew of health and medicinal properties and is pleasantly refreshing
* Mrs Balls chutney, a spicy, fruit-based condiment - usually peaches or apricot - eaten with cold meat, cheese (and, by aficionados, with absolutely everything else!)
* peri peri, technically a Mozambiquean hot chilli sauce (also available as a spice) much beloved by Portuguese-speaking emigrees but happily adoped by South Africans - add it to a steak inside a white bread roll to make a prego roll
* South African confectionary ('sweets') reflects the strong British colonial heritage - not quite so sweet as US candy - and brands such as Cadbury are dominant. Tex Bars, Chomp Bars and Chocolate Logs are all uniquely South African, so if you want to ingratiate yourself with kids back home (your own or other's), why not buy a selection?
Bear in mind that certain countries (for example, Australia) have very stringent rules concerning the importation of animal and plant matter, so check in advance what you're allowed to bring back with you to avoid confiscation (and possible prosecution)Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
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"Fine book shops everywhere": Life in South Africa is most amusing
Well, this tip is not so much about book shops as about some of the humour annuals that get put out.
Two delightful books of humour are the "Madam & Eve" series by Stephen Francis and Rico, neither of whom are South African, and the "Zapiro" political cartoons. The new annual are released in October each year. The 2011 Madam & Eve is entitled "The Pothole at the End of the Rainbow" and the Zapiro one is "The Last Sushi". It draws its title from a very, very expensive party Kenny Kunene threw at the end of 2010 at which sushi was eaten of the naked body of a young woman. It created a huge furore.
Both books are published by www.jacana.co.za, famous for "We publish what we like", a play on the words of Steve Biko who wrote "I write what I like".
What to buy: I particularly recommend the Madam & Eve books as they are very accessible.
What to pay: The recommended selling price is R145.00Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
Lots of shopping malls.....
Thanks to the favourable exchange rate, South Africa is a shopper’s paradise for international visitorsBrooklynmall(Gauteng)
Eastgate Shopping Centre (Gauteng)
Fourways Crossing (Gauteng)
Hyde Park Shopping Centre (Gauteng)
Menlyn Park Shopping Mall (Gauteng)
Panorama Flea Market (Gauteng)
Randburg Waterfront (Gauteng)
Sandton City (Gauteng)
Somerset Mall (Cape)
The Mall of Rosebank (Gauteng)
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (Cape
Pppppplease check my link included for more info.
Menlyn Park Mall
Very large and modern mall (over 300 shops) where you'll find everything from clothing, books and cosmetics to electronics and home furnishings. There are several places to exchange money, a few restaurants and even a movie theatre. It is like most any major mall in the US with a few minor differences. Unlike most malls in the States (except for those in downtown urban areas) there is a fee for parking. The movie theatre also assigns you a seat when you purchase your ticket.
What to pay: Fairly inexpensive compared to American shops.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Women's Travel
Greenmarket Square and the Pan African Market: Bargains Galore
I told you earlier not to shop at the V&A Waterfront. That's because you can get lots of reasonably priced souvenirs at Greenmarket Square or the nearby Pan African Market. Not only are the prices cheaper to begin with, but you can also bargain and get that "first customer of the day" discount that seems so popular - no matter what time of day it is.
What to buy: We got some nice artwork, some carvings, but I still rue the day that I passed up the decorative ostrich eggs.
What to pay: As much or as little as you want.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Be wary of what gifts you wish to take out of SA!
Re taking gifts from South Africa to the UK, it's worth mentioning very easy to get Saffa goods in the UK. There are loads of Saffa shops that cater really well for us, retail shops and online.
Re bringing a gift through customs from SA, be wary with wooden creatures.. as they need to be specially treated... and foodstuffs like biltong obviously cannot go through customs.
What to buy: Things I always get when I am in SA are SA (wildlife or city photo) calendars for the year ahead, those are hard to find here. They also have Saffa holidays on them which is nice to have.
They aren't very traditonal though, more a practical gift.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
The Spirit of Africa
I also bought this is what they call the Spirit of Africa, the very local Amarula liqueur which is made from the fruit of Marula trees that growing in many regions in western and southern Africa. It is also the official spirit of the world cup 2010 :)
Wild Africa Cream
As usual I like to buy local drinks and take with me home and no exceptions here, I got this Wild Africa Cream, just be sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack that you check in with and not on hand bad because such large bottles cannot be taken through security in EU if you have connection flights at list until 2013.
Shopping for souvenirs
South Africa is fantastic place for shopping, whatever your taste they have here magnificent items. Just one tip, I rather stop and buy on the side roads and stands from very local people then in the big shops or at the airport, this way you get it cheaper and help a bit more the local vendors.
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