DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA: When KwaZulu-Natal tourism officials said their province has everything in one destination, they were accurately stating a fact.
In an earlier article, Thulisile Galelekile, general manager for marketing of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal told The Manila Times, “One thing about KZN that is different from other provinces, is you get everything in this province in one destination.”
And it’s true — whereas provinces are teeming with natural wonders, KwaZulu-Natal is as rich in its vibrant city life and its culture and history as it is with its wildlife.
In this third and final installment of its South African series, The Manila Times puts the spotlight on the offerings of KwaZulu-Natal, simply KZN, beyond the woods and the wildlife.
A melting pot of culture
Considered as South Africa’s third-smallest province, KZN can be said as one of the country’s younger provinces too. It was created only in 1994 when the Zulu bantustan — former territories in South Africa set aside for black inhabitants during the apartheid — KwaZulu ( meaning “Place of the Zulu” in Zulu language) and Natal Province were merged.
It is also worth to note that the province is where major South African battles had taken place — the Battle of Blood River; the Battle of Isandlwana; the Battle of Rorke’s Drift; and major battles of the two Anglo-Boer Wars.
All these considered, it’s no surprise that present-day KZN is a melting pot of cultures.
“We are big on culture and we can say that out of South Africa, the biggest multi-cultural community is in KZN,” Toursim KwaZulu-Natal Acting Chief Executive Officer Phindile Makwakwa said in a roundtable interview that included The Manila Times.
India in Africa
“We got the biggest Indian population outside of India and, of course, we got the African and Western culture. So we really have a beautiful melting pot of culture,” Makwakwa informed.
And according to the tour guide, early Indian immigrants actually worked on sugar cane farms in what would be KZN.
This beautiful marriage and peaceful co-existence is in fact reflected in the province’s offerings.
For one, it may surprise first-time visitors to find a huge number of Indian restaurants in the territory especially in its capital, Durban City.
Besides the popular Indian fare biryani, tandoori chicken or even samosa, visitors must try the uniquely KZN offering bunny chow.
The origin of this hollowed loaf bread filled with curry is not certain but the most accepted story involved an immigrant and a harried worker.
According to legend, there was once an Indian immigrant who attracted a passing worker with his aromatic curry. Wanting to have his taste of the immigrant’s dish without taking much time, the worker ordered for a take out. But since the immigrant was just on “soft opening,” he didn’t have any takeaway containers. The worker’s resourcefulness then kicked in and suggested the available loaf bread to serve as a container. The immigrant hollowed the bread, filled it with his curry and gave it to the happy worker. Since then, this way of serving became popular.
Besides the popularity of Indian cuisine, tourists may also see the manifestation of this foreign culture in many women who still wear the saree, the national dress of India.
Additionally, KZN is also home to a thriving part of South African history.
“We call ourselves the Zulu Kingdom, which therefore means it is home to the Zulu people. We have the King Shaka, we still have the monarch here, where you can actually get to see how the king and his wives are living,” Galelekile proudly noted.
A role in history
A few hour’s drive outside Durban City, meanwhile, is Howick, a town that put KZN in South Africa’s history.
“Nelson Mandela was actually arrested here in KZN, in a place called Howick,” Galelekile imparted.
Mandela is the late former president of South Africa revered for his efforts to establish equality in South Africa that has been divided by the apartheid regime.
Due to his anti-apartheid activism acts, the local police had been hunting Mandela until that one fateful day on August 1952.
Mandela, in disguise as the chauffeur of the car he drove, was spotted and apprehended in R103 road between Durban and Johannesburg.
According to sa-venues.com, this event fueled Mandela’s causes even further.
“From the time of his incarceration, Nelson Mandela made great strides in awakening the consciousness of South Africans and the world, to the inequalities and unfair treatment that was carrying on within the borders of this great land,” the website noted.
To commemorate this historical event, Howick is now home to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site.
“The capture site has a museum that champions about what he did and other facilities that show what he was doing before he was captured. Visitors can even trace his footsteps before he got arrested,” Galelekile proudly shared.
Rounding up the interview, Galelekile and Makwakwa invite tourists to visit KZN and immerse themselves not only in the province’s teeming natural wonders but also in its rich culture.
“One of the things that people are looking for is the authentic cultural experience where you can actually immerse yourselves with the people of the province and experience their way of living, and we do have that.
“If you are interested in that [kind of tourism], come here and do exactly that,” Galelekile ended.