Arts and Culture
Durban boasts a number of excellent theatres where local and touring productions put on top-class shows. There are also several dinner theatres. Tickets can be booked at www.computicket.com.
Durban’s people reflect a rich cultural diversity of African, Eastern and Western influences. When the first Europeans settled in Durban in the 1820s, the Zulu people were already here. The Indian people were brought in in the 1880s as indentured labourers to work in the sugar cane fields, and were followed by traders and business people from the East. Today Durban is a cosmopolitan African city, home to people from all over the world but retaining that strong African-Indian-European colonial heritage.
Woza eNanda offers a township tour where you can meet local residents and visit some of Durban’s most important historical sites.
Ghandi’s Home: Mahatma Gandhi developed his philosophy of passive resistance at the Phoenix Settlement and his home has been turned into a monument dedicated to lasting peace and justice.
The Ohlange Institute: founded by John Dube (the first president of the African National Congress), is home to the site where Nelson Mandela cast his historic vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
Ebuhleni and Ekuphakameni Shembe settlements: Explore the interesting Shembe religion at these sites – especially their Sunday dance ceremonies
Inanda Seminary: The active campus educates close to four hundred students in ten historic buildings. Many of South Africa’s most powerful and influential women received their education at this school.
Inanda Community Tourism Bureau: 031 519 2555
Durban’s Muti (traditional medicine) Market in the city centre will give you an insight into the world of traditional African medicine and healing practices. Make your way through the market and witness a variety of traditional medicine being made and prepared for sale.
The Shembe Church follows a mixture of Christian and Zulu cultural beliefs, and is well known for its festivals and ocean baptisms. Thousands of devotees gather on the top of a mountain to participate in hypnotic, trance-like song and dance celebrations in full traditional regalia during June and July.
Inanda Community Tourism: 031 519 2555
Important Religious Places
The Jumma Musjid Mosque in town is the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere and can accommodate 5000 people. 031 306 0026
Built in 1969, the Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding in Chatsworth is simply beautiful. Designed in the shape of a lotus plant, its spires, surrounding moat, pillars, murals and mirrors attract many visitors. 031 403 3328
The Emmanuel Cathedral opened its doors in 1904 and finds itself amidst the hubbub of the inner city. The building is a landmark in Durban and was once a centre of intense political activity in the mid-1980s. 031 306 3595
Ride a Riksha (031 311 4497/083 626 9669)
Rikshas were introduced to Durban from the East in the early 1900s to serve as a tourist attraction and as a quick-and-easy means of transport around the growing city. Today, a fleet of these two-wheelers pulled by men with colourful outfits and outlandish headgear still operates on the Durban beachfront. Take a ride in one and experience just some of the character and joy of being in Durban.
Durban is home to a variety of art galleries that exhibit a mixture of contemporary art, traditional arts and craft as well as the work of celebrated South African artists.
KwaMuhle Museum (031 311 2237)
Once the office of the notorious Department of Native Affairs, the KwaMuhle Museum provides a vital link with the city’s apartheid past. Inside the building are a number of powerful displays that provide a fascinating insight into the life of South Africa’s then “second class citizens”.
Durban has a diverse mix of architecture, including Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, Indian traditional and modern temple architecture.
Durban has one of the best selections of Art Deco buildings of any city in the world. 031 301 1951
Notable buildings include the Durban City Hall, the Natal Playhouse, Bamboo Square, the Old Fort, the International Convention Centre and the Law Courts.
Visit the Mariannhill Monastery just beyond the city. 031 700 4288
Durban City Hall
Completed in 1910, the Durban City Hall is an excellent example of Edwardian Neo-Baroque architecture. Designed by architect Stanley G Hudson, who was inspired by the City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, it was considered a “very bold and progressive design” for its time. The Durban City Hall is the location for the municipal chambers, the Durban Art Gallery (where you can see a very impressive collection of both international and South African art), a library and an auditorium.
The Umhlanga Lighthouse
This distinctive twenty-one metre high lighthouse, completed in 1954, is situated on the picturesque Umhlanga promenade. The circular tower, with its red top, serves as a "guiding light", leading vessels through some of South Africa's most treacherous coastline and warning them of hidden dangers. The Umhlanga Lighthouse has never had its own lighthouse keeper - its lights are operated from the nearby Oyster Box Hotel. The lighthouse controls are located in the hotel office where staff monitor the controls, and report to Portnet’s Lighthouse Service.
The Durban Harbour Millennium Tower
Perched high on the Bluff peninsular in Durban is the Millennium Tower. It is occupied by the port control and signals staff and provides a 360-degree view over the port, city and sea approaches to Durban. The tower features a massive 37-metre high rotating cowl and wind vane that reflects wind direction and a 50-metre spire that indicates tidal movement.
Traffic light signals visually regulate navigation in the port entrance channel and a computer-driven sunscreen with horizontal and vertical blinds tracks the movement of the sun. This feature constantly changes the external appearance of the tower is an indication of the time of day. At night, lighting colours within the cowl change according to a random algorithm driven by the tide, wind direction and humidity.
International Convention Centre (ICC)
The venue of COP17/CMP7 is also the focal point of Durban's business district. It’s been described as a functional space in an aesthetic environment. Centrally located and just a quarter of an hour from the airport, ICC Durban is minutes from hotels and beaches. It is one of the most advanced conference facilities in the world, a state-of-the-art technology-driven centre where flexibility and versatility are key. It has three convention halls that are interlinked but separate. Moveable walls allow for a number of different venue configurations. Alternatively, the halls can be opened up to form one large venue with seating for 5000 delegates or 7000 m2 of column free floor space. Together with the adjacent Exhibition Centre, the ICC can double its capacity to accommodate 10 000 conference delegates.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
An iconic building that has redefined the Durban landscape, the 70 000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium was built to provide the city with a multi-purpose world-class sporting facility. The design was inspired by the South African flag, with the grand arch representing the unity of a sport loving nation. Designed to ensure 365-day-a-year usage, the stadium includes retail space, an open-air amphitheatre, a cable car that takes visitors to a viewing platform on top of the 350 m arch, and the ‘Big Swing’, the world’s only stadium swing and the largest swing of its kind.
Visually inspiring, Moses Mabhida Stadium allows for natural ventilation and creates an incredible sense of space that is every bit as striking as the stadium's famous arch. A pedestrian pathway provides a safe and easy link between the stadium and the beach.
Art Deco Buildings
Durban has its share of fabulous Art Deco buildings that arose from the European 1920s Art Deco movement. Exemplary examples of the style include Surrey Mansions (Currie Road), Berea Court (Berea Road West), Colonial Mutual Building (West Street and the Memorial Tower Building (King George V Avenue). The cenotaph in the central square outside the City Hall is yet another striking Art Deco construction.