Johannesburg informally known as Jozi or Jo’burg, is the largest city in South Africa and one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world.
It is located in the eastern plateau area of South Africa known as the Highveld, at an elevation of 1,753 metres (5,751 feet).
As of December 2019, the population of Johannesburg is about 5.6 million people.
The city covers a total area of 335 square kilometers (130 square miles).
Johannesburg sits on the edge of the world’s largest known gold deposit – in the Witwatersrand Basin, once the site of a massive inland sea.
Two billion years ago, a giant meteor struck the earth at Vredefort, about 120 kilometers south-west of Johannesburg. The impact – the oldest and largest visible meteor impact site in the world – buried the Witwatersrand gold deposits up to several kilometres deep, protecting the gold from erosion and making for the deepest-level goldmines in the world.
One of the youngest of the world’s major cities, Johannesburg was founded in 1886, following the discovery of gold. [Photo below: Johannesburg 1899]
The discovery spurred a feverish gold rush as fortune hunters from all over the world descended on the area.
The population of the city grew rapidly, becoming a municipality in 1897.
In 1928 it became a city making Johannesburg the largest city in South Africa.
In the mid-twentieth century racial segregation in the form of apartheid came into play. From 1960 to 1980, several hundred thousand blacks were forced from Johannesburg to remote ethnic “homelands.”
Black militancy, combined with the effects of international sanctions, finally toppled the apartheid system in the early 1990s and led to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
Today, it is a centre for learning and entertainment for all of Africa.
The Apartheid Museum is a museum in Johannesburg, illustrating apartheid and the 20th century history of South Africa. The museum, was opened in November 2001. At least five times a year events are held at the museum to celebrate the end of apartheid and the start of a beautiful democracy for the people of South Africa.
The Nelson Mandela National Museum, commonly referred to as Mandela House is the house where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962. Mandela House is located in Soweto 20 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg. Soweto was an area of planned segregation, where black laborers were housed far from the city center, many in shacks made of corrugated iron.
Gold Reef City is an amusement park in Johannesburg. Located on an old gold mine which closed in 1971, the park is themed around the gold rush that started in 1886 on the Witwatersrand, the buildings on the park are designed to mimic the same period. There is a museum dedicated to gold mining on the grounds where it is possible to see a gold-containing ore vein and see how real gold is poured into barrels.
Montecasino is a leisure and casino complex covering 26 hectares of land. It was designed by American company Creative Kingdom Inc. and built by South African architects Bentel Associates International. The complex first opened its doors on 30 November 2000 and it currently attracts over 9.5 million visitors annually. It has been meticulously designed to replicate an ancient Tuscan village.
Constitution Hill is a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. The site is a former prison and military fort that bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past and, today, is home to the country’s Constitutional Court, which endorses the rights of all citizens.
The Johannesburg Zoo is a 55-hectare (140-acre) zoo. The zoo is dedicated to the accommodation, enrichment, husbandry, and medical care of wild animals, and houses about 2000 individuals of 320 species. Established in 1904, it has traditionally been owned and operated by the Johannesburg City Council. However, it has been turned into a corporation and registered as a Section 21 non-profit organisation.
The Johannesburg Botanical Garden is located in the suburb of Emmarentia in Johannesburg. The gardens grew out of a large rose garden that was established in 1964 (becoming known locally as the “Rose Garden”) and subsequently expanded from 1969 to cover an area of around 125 hectares (309 acres).
About an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most productive and important paleo-anthropological areas. The name Cradle of Humankind reflects the fact that the site has produced a large number of (as well as some of the oldest) hominin fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago.
The city was named after two officials of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR), Christiaan Johannes Joubert and Johannes Rissik, who both worked in land surveying and mapping. The two men combined the name they shared, adding ‘burg’, the archaic Afrikaans word for ‘fortified city’.
The city is commonly interpreted as the modern-day El Dorado due to the extremely large gold deposit found along the Witwatersrand.
By the late 1990s, Johannesburg was rated as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Although it is ranked as a top worldwide center of commerce, and is predicted to become one of the largest urban areas in the world, daunting problems remain.