on July 29, 2008
Sometimes called "Africa’s richest square mile", Sandton City is also among Africa’s largest shopping centers with over 300 stores. Much of Johannesburg's business tourism is centered on Sandton, which is home to a string of 5-star hotels. However, even if you’re not staying at the Sandton Sun, Intercontinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers, the Garden Court Sandton City or the Michaelangelo Hotel, Sandton City is still well worth a look as it is here where you will everything from fine African art to camera supplies for that upcoming jaunt into the bush.As we were staying at the Westcliff hotel up the road and were only stopping over briefly in Jo’burg before leaving for Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, Sandton seemed to be worth a quick look. All better local hotels provide chauffeured transportation to and from Sandton so despite the city’s well-earned reputation for crime you should be plenty safe going there. And once you arrive, there’s plenty to see.I particularly enjoyed shopping for colorful Zulu beadwork in Indaba Lifestyle while my husband ducked off to get a haircut at Franco International. He later remarked that his haircutter was originally from Ivory Coast, a reminder that since the long overdue end of apartheid, South Africa has become a magnet for Africans from poorer and less stable nations. Sadly though, because unemployment is still very high throughout the country, immigrants often receive a hostile reception here as many South Africans just barely hanging on are afraid these outsiders will take their jobs and strain resources.Sandton is also a good place for international visitors to change money as it’s home to four South African banks featuring ATMS and three currency exchanges. At such institutions as First National and Nedbank, safety is not the concern it might be at another branch in Johannesburg. Most of these banks are open at least half a day on Saturday and the currency exchanges stay open all day.For a taste of how Jo’burg’s elite shop for food and wine, wander into Checkers Hyper, an upscale grocery store. Here you will find the best biltong (dried meat beloved by South Africans), a wine shop stocking many fabulous local wines renowned around the world, a cheese shop and of course a fruit and vegetable market. Then if all this food has made you hungry, you can stop in at any of the various restaurants and cafes found on Sandton’s upper and lower levels, which range from fast food franchises to Vilamoura, a fancy Mediterranean restaurant.Sandton is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays and public South African holidays.
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