Monday, 26 August 2013

Fordsburg Night Market

One of the things which makes Johannesburg a really exciting city to relocate to is its genuinely rainbow-like abundance of different cultural groups. Much like London or New York, this city has attracted immigrants from across the globe and they've all developed their own little corners, incorporating their indigenous styles and cultural identities into the fabric of the city.

The ethnic group most identifiable in the area where I live (Melrose/Illovo) is the Jewish community. On the floor of my apartment block, ten out of the 15 flats are Jewish. Some of the apartment blocks here even have their own temples! The Chinese community has their own Chinatown in Cyrildene, the Congolese are well set up in Yeoville's Rocky Road and Joburg's vibrant Indian/Pakistani/Bengali community is largely based in colourful Fordsburg, just west of the CBD.

During apartheid the government forced the "coloured" community to move out of Fordsburg, where they had established their own community, and made them relocate to the far off township of Lenasia (past Soweto). They did however let Asian business owners keep their shops - on the condition that they remain within the specially designated Asia Mall. Despite being forced to live several miles from their stores, the community's businesses continued to thrive through the difficulties of apartheid. Now that apartheid has long since passed the Asian community has reclaimed the streets of Fordsburg and the area is now bursting with a new generation of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, further adding to the vibrant street life. 21st Century Fordsburg is a fantastic place to shop, eat, get a haircut, visit a tailor…you name it, you can find it here.

The most fun time to come to Fordsburg is Saturday evening when the night market is in full swing. During the night market the area around the main thoroughfare Mint Street fills with stalls selling clothes, jewellery, DVDs, Bollywood films, spices, sparkly shoes and lots and lots of street food. The predominantly Muslim community turn out in their finest clothes to wander the streets, shop, eat, get beauty treatments, gossip and meet with friends.

We parked up a few blocks from Mint Street with empty stomachs and went in search of some top quality Indian food. Following our noses we quickly found ourselves drawn to the smoking street-side grill of the Tikka House where at least 20 tandoori chickens were being grilled over an open fire. With our stomachs happily filled we then went looking for stuff to buy. Like all good Asian markets you arrive in search of food and then decide you want to buy 10 of the latest blockbusters on pirate DVD, a handful of jewellery, a bucket-load of spices and maybe some incense to top it off. Incidentally if you are looking for variations on the traditional long black Muslim abaya…there are at least 50 shops to choose from.

Our next task was to find the Juice Den which Heather Mason of had highly recommended to me. Here they grind up fresh sugar cane and mix it up with freshly squeezed juices and ice into a very satisfying drink. I had orange and cane juice, although there were more exciting options like guava, carrot and avocado to choose from too.

My husband wasn't going to leave Fordsburg without getting a 30 Rand haircut at the Asian barbers and I certainly wasn't going to walk past the Sweetmeats bakery without getting some sticky treats to take home. I have no idea exactly what it was I bought - but what the hey, it was nyom!

How we got there: Fordsburg is located to the west of Newtown which is easily accessed on the Rea Vaya. It is not at all recommended to walk here from Newtown after dark though - the industrial wasteland in between is dark, creepy and super sketchy. Essentially the night market is best reached by car. Park where you can and you will find there's no shortage of car guards around to watch your wheels.


  1. Hey Louise! This is a really awesome blog. Glad to see you made it to Fordsburg. I would add some of my recommendations (for your next trip there!). Try out Dosa Hut, which is a restaurant just behind the market. It's mainly South Indian food - I can recommend the masala dosas, fried cauliflower starters, prawn biryani, whole fried fish (enough to share between 2-3 people), the lemon-mint juice, and special tea.
    On the north end of Mint Rd is the stalwart restaurant, Bismillah's. Cheap and cheerful, great tikka, biryani and other curries.
    Hope to make an excursion out there with you and John soon ;-)

  2. Thanks Nasreen! Special tea, whole fried fish, prawns...This is all such great stuff - and I especially love cheap and cheerful - getting hungry again thinking about it! Let's make a plan to go down there again soon, maybe when India come for the cricket test ;)

  3. Wow, you don't mess around - you did everything! I recommend the sugar cane juice with granadilla. By far the best combo in my opinion.

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  5. Hope to roam around in Fordsburg soon. Have been following Heather's 2summers for quite a some time, will be following you also to know about Johannesburg. cheers :-)

  6. Thanks Sohan! I'm also a huge fan of Heather's blog. Hope you get to enjoy Fordsburg soon (just remember to arrive very hungry ;)

  7. Nice post, I bookmark your blog because I found very good information on your blog, Thanks for sharing more informatiom

  8. Louise, My husband and I will be traveling to South Africa in September and have an overnight layover in Johannesburg. I hate the idea of being in a city and not at least seeing a bit of it, so, while we are staying near the airport, we would like to enjoy dinner out somewhere. We will be there on a Sunday night. Can you recommend somewhere interesting, but in a safe enough area? We are in our early 30s andadventurous, but don't want to be unsafe. Thanks for any advice!!

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