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The grass is always greener on the other side. So it seems, according to a group of Capetonians and a group of Durbanites walking on the beachfront promenade this week when the globally influential Anholt-GfK Roper City Brand Index ranked Durban as the friendliest metropolis.
“We have just walked the beachfront and at least five people I passed said ‘hello’,” said Kim Jones, in Durban to accompany her husband to a dental conference.
“I also felt safe, even walking under the tunnel to the (Moses Mabhida) Stadium.”
Her companion, Almary Weerth, agreed: “Yes, the joggers and cyclists all greeted me and my husband.”
According to Jones, Capetonians can be “a little cliquey”.
“People just put their heads down and go,” she said, referring especially to cyclists.
“Maybe it’s the weather and they’re all trying to get indoors as soon as possible.”
A little way down the promenade Durban resident Joanna Featherstone, an immigrant from Ireland, said she lived “on the outskirts of lots of cliques” and that locals’ circles tended to be defined by where one went to school.
Her friend, Liz Young, said people were more inclined to greet one another in Cape Town than in Durban.
“Cape Town is a world class destination. Durban has never been marketed. Locals think ‘local is lekker’ and they mess up everything that is working.
“But we’re still here.”
Others who spoke to The Independent on Saturday thought Durban’s people were wonderfully friendly.
“It’s a friendly city but I think tourists need to take precautions when it comes to security,” said a teacher taking children on a beach walk, who gave her name only as Nishara.
Guests in another survey ranked Hilton Durban as South Africa’s favourite hotel according to votes.
Next to the International Convention Centre and away from the beachfront, its atmosphere is more formal than Southern Sun’s Elangeni-Maharani, which took second spot. At the latter, a mix of tourists and business people walked in and out of the lobbies.
An elderly Australian couple at the Elangeni, on a whistle-stop African safari, were ready to take a tour of the city having flown in at 10pm the night before from Kenya where they had been hot air ballooning over the Maasai Mara National Park.
“The game lodges in Kenya were nice,” said the woman.
“But the beds were a bit hard. Last night we had what we were more used to.”
A Capetonian checking out of the Maharani said people from the Mother City usually judged Durban harshly.
“But I was pleasantly surprised. From the first step to the service, it was fantastic.”
She said renovations outside “had to be done”. “It’s a seafront. It’s inevitable that there has to be maintenance.”
At the Hilton, Patrick Gumede started his day replacing a flag bearing the hotel’s name on one of a string of flagpoles outside the entrance.
“I am the main man here,” he joked.
Inside, businessmen shuffled into a conference in the Polo Club while it was mainly women who headed for a conference upstairs.
The morning paper, available at the coffee bar, carried an article about Pope Francis planning to drive around in a humble 1984 Renault 4 economy car.
How different to the blue-light convoy that sped past a few minutes later. - The Independent on Saturday