Joburg's Little Ethiopia

#131. Head downtown for a taste of North African food. More than 25 years ago I watched the Johannesburg Sun being built from the window of my orthodontist’s office in Lister Building, then the home of some of Joburg’s top medical specialists. There must be hundreds of now-adults who share this memory, straight teeth, and the image of  Dr Chertkow and Lazerson’s shared consulting rooms with those purple and orange vinyl chairs.

Today that part of town bustles with clothing and blanket wholesalers, fruit vendors and minibus taxicabs. The Joburg Sun is now the KwaDukuzu Egoli Hotel and nearby is Blessed Miracle Wholesalers. The walls are plastered with adverts for abortions and for consultations with miracle prophets who hail from Zimbabwe. Finding a parking space is for the brave as the city planning in that part of town was – I am reliably told – shared by two different firms who drew their own street maps and then matched them up after the streets were built resulting in a weird glitch that causes traffic to have to bob and weave to make it across the street.

Just opposite the hotel and one block down on Delvers Street is a building with an entrance that spills onto the pavement, the home of a number of clothing wholesalers, dressmakers and Ethiopian coffee shops. Usptairs above the hustle of the streets in a coffee shop that had no name we ate injera – a traditional Ethiopian bread with a sourdough taste and spongy texture – with a range of small portions of beetroot, cooked spinach, a sweet potato and carrot mix, and some stewed beef.

The patrons all looked local to the place — mini Addis Ababa — and our host couldn’t have been more welcoming or gracious. No doubt he was curious about what had drawn white faces to that part of town, but was too polite to inquire. Having feasted we walked across the way past a restaurant where two men, on noticing us looking at their hot-pot of beef pieces, beckoned us to share it with them. We stopped for a taste and found enough reason to make a return visit.

It’s a perfect way to describe this city – full of unexpected tastes and encounters.

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