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Fordsburg, Johannesburg’s Oriental Hub

Fordsburg Shops and Markets, Johannesburg

Fordsburg

Fordsburg, on the eastern end of Bree Street, is an invigorating mix of Indian and Middle Eastern cultures, and a wonderful place to savour their delightful food and shop at great prices. The area is made up of streets lined with buildings crammed with interesting shops below and apartments above, all stuffed between mosques, churches and temples.  The sounds of Fordsburg will lure you in from a blaring Bollywood soundtrack to stall owners flouting their wares in many different languages. Feel the rich fabrics, admire the intricate gold jewellery and smell the heavily scented perfume oils mixed with spices wafting from the many different restaurants.

The best time to visit Fordsburg for a foodie is on a Saturday night when it is home to a fantastic weekly night market where you can sample the mind blowing morsels. Fordsburg in Johannesburg is one of the foodie destinations for a genuine adventure in urban Indo-Asian gastronomy.

All these sensory delights are situated within a few blocks centered on Dolly Rathebe Avenue, Mint Road, Crown Road and Lilian Avenue and remember, half the fun is interacting with the friendly locals, so take a walk!

For some foodie delights, park in Mint Street and grab an Indian coffee, super-sweet and frothy, or a spicy masala chai, from Swaruchi, a vegetarian restaurant at 45 Central Road. Swaruchi specialises in South and North Indian and Gujarati cuisine with excellent prices and brilliant quality.

About two blocks down from the Square, on Mint Street, is an informal weekend-only seasonal vegetable market. As you exit the market, fresh milk from a green Mozambican coconut, sipped through a straw, is a Fordsburg ritual you cannot forgo.

If you’ve a sweet tooth, Fordsburg’s sweetmeat delis and confectionaries like Shalimar Delights, Homemade Delights, and Divine Confectionary will have you cramming jewel-coloured halwa, burfi, jalebi, and gulab jamun into your shopping bag. Shaheen Sweets and Bakery makes cream cakes to die for, as well as the freshest chilli-bites, pakoras, and proper potato samosas.

For spices, take a stroll to the corner of Fountain and Crown Road, to Kwality Spice Works, the best spice and Indian ingredient wholesaler in Jozi.

Bismillah’s Pakistani food is truly authentic, so its garish décor can be forgiven.  As with most Fordsburg restaurants, it is Halaal, so no alcohol is served.

Oriental Plaza

Oriental Plaza, Fordsburg, Johannesburg

This is a huge, value for money shopping centre. It is a magnet for those looking for special fabrics, clothes, household linens and many other bargains. Haggling is part of the process, as the owners of the more than 360 stores stand by the contention that the Oriental Plaza is 30 to 40% cheaper than anywhere else. There are enough shoe shops here to keep Imelda Marcos happy, especially if you have small feet or alternative taste.

The Bag Factory (Fordsburg Artists Studios)

The Bag Factory (Fordsburg Artists Studios)

One of Joburg’s leading visual arts organisations, the Bag Factory has been alive and kicking since 1991, when the space was set up to provide studios for artists – mainly black artists, who at that stage, had very little access to networks and resources in order to build their careers.

The building contains 18 studios, as well as a workshop spaces and gallery, and the gritty vitality of its urban context has impacted powerfully on the work of the artists. The centre has hosted major contemporary local artists including Penny Siopis, William Kentridge and Deborah Bell. Tel: +27 11 834 9181: 10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg:  Email: Website.

Mill Street and Carr Street Area

The Mills, Carr Street, Newtown and FordsburgOnce a warehousing centre in Johannesburg, this area is filled with large buildings that have the tools of the trade – large platforms for the loading and unloading of goods; huge halls with steel framed windows and red brick walls and oodles of space, just waiting to be developed.

Easily accessible from the Carr Street off-ramp when driving north on the M1, this area is worthy of a visit. Completely transformed, starting with the old Premier Mill Building, architects have created a niche of very trendy loft style offices and apartments. On the ground floor of the Mills, are the popular bars and nightclubs, The Town Hall and The Woods, holding street parties that take place in the alley behind the Mill.

The excellent Rooke Gallery, on the ground floor of The Newtown, at 37 Quinn Street, showcases contemporary art. Tel: 072 383 5091: Open Wed to Fri: 10h00 to 17h30 and Sat: 09h00 to 12h00. E-Mail: Website.

More info on the Johannesburg area