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Celebrating Madiba’s life

Johannesburg - The world mourned, and continues to mourn, at the passing of our beloved Nelson Mandela.

July 18 marks Madiba’s birthday – the first since his passing - and there are many wonderful places to visit in Johannesburg and Soweto that offer moving memories and stories of this amazing man’s life – all of them on the City Sightseeing Red City Tour and the City Sightseeing Soweto extension.

Vilakazi Street in Soweto. Picture: Matthews BaloyiOrganisations selling tourism experiences in Soweto had organised themselves under an umbrella body, making it easier to market to big travel agents, hotel groups and other tourism agencies.  Picture: Sharon SeretloORLANDO: The Soweto cooling towers jump allows a jump off a 100 metre bridge between two cooling towers.Gold Reef City Theme Park. Picture: Itumeleng EnglishA tour of Constitution Hill. Constitution Hill in Johannesburg is set to come alive with the hosting of a brand new monthly lifestyle and culture market. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

A wonderful way to reconnect with this great man’s past and to get an understanding of where he started is to visit the house where he and his family lived in Vilakazi Street in Soweto from 1946 to 1962 – Mandela House is now a museum, and is situated a short distance up the road from the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Vilakazi Street is the only place in the world from which two Nobel Prize winners originate.

In this same street you will encounter the eclectic atmosphere that emanates from the markets and memorabilia stands, as well as the various eateries like the Mandela Family Restaurant, NexDor and Sakhumzi.

Enjoy drinks on the overlooking restaurant balconies or at tables dotted along the sidewalks on a bright sunny day.

Explore Soweto with City Sightseeing

Undoubtedly the best way to explore these and other sites in Soweto is with the 1-Day Bus + Soweto Combo or 2-Day Bus + Soweto Combo tours offered by City Sightseeing.

City Sightseeing partnered with Kgomotso Pooe and his dynamic entrepreneurial company SO WE TOO, to add an exciting extension to their existing Red City Tour that offers sightseers a personal, in-depth and unforgettable tour of Soweto’s hot spots. (SO WE TOO won the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the inaugural Lilizela Tourism Awards.)

The Soweto tour extension visits six stops along the route – starting with Soccer City on the outskirts of Soweto.

From there you stop at Diep Kloof, before reaching the renowned Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest hospital in the world in 1977.

Visit the Orlando Towers next where the world’s highest 70 metres Suspended Catch Air Device (SCAD) Freefall is located. The landmark is popular for bungee and base jumping and abseiling. Afterwards, enjoy a drink or some braaied meat at the shisa nyama and shebeen, Chaf Pozi located at the entrance of the site.

Drive past the famous Orlando Stadium, the first ever sports facility built for black South Africans in a residential area and then hop off at the Hector Pietersen memorial in Orlando West - a work of art that allows you to soak up the events of June 16, 1976 that became a catalyst for the Soweto Uprising as the story is recounted by your tour guide.

End your Soweto tour at the Kliptown Open Air Museum in Walter Sisulu Square where in 1955, 3000 people came together to adopt the Freedom Charter.

See the 10 tenets upon which the South African Constitution is based. Another popular landmark standing a few metres away from the museum is the 4-star Soweto Hotel.

The City Sightseeing Soweto tour extension starts, and ends, at Gold Reef City, where you will be met by your Soweto tour guide and a driver who will take you on the tour in a comfortable air-conditioned Soweto Red minivan.

The Bus + Soweto Combo tours offered by City Sightseeing give you not only a tour of Soweto but also a ticket for the Red City Tour, which takes you to all the top stops around the city centre – with hundreds of things to see and do.

Connect with Madiba on the Red City Tour

Connecting with Mandela whilst on the Red City Tour is also a must – with stops such as the Apartheid Museum - a world-class facility with mesmerising and interactive displays that include lots of video and film footage and is set within a remarkable building - a celebration of the human spirit for overcoming adversary.

This is the perfect place to take the kids - walk through and explain the displays to them and witness the efforts of those, such as Mandela, who were involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.

After exploring the museum you can then stop and enjoy a coffee, cool drink or milkshake at the coffee shop and enjoy some retail therapy at the curio shop.

Constitution Hill is an important, interesting and symbolic place.

Johannesburg boasts a large number of heritage sites, but leading these is Constitution Hill which comprises a series of museums located in former prisons, including the Old Fort, the notorious No 4 Prison and the Women’s Jail.

The hillside is also home to the Constitutional Court - South Africa’s highest court (the art collection housed within the court building is also a must-see, featuring conventional art pieces, as well as objects of arts and crafts that are incorporated into the building itself).

The Old Fort was built by the Boer Republic in anticipation of the Anglo Boer War. It was turned into a prisoner-of-war camp by the British during the war and after peace was made it continued to be used as a jail. It is in this prison complex that Joburg’s most famous prisoners were once kept: first Gandhi and a generation later Nelson Mandela and his Rivonia Trial comrades.

Everyone should be able to say that they have experienced eclectic Soweto, that they have seen into Madela’s past, that they have had a taste of the struggle that went into democratic South Africa and the City Sightseeing Red City Tour and Soweto tour extension are the perfect way to do all of this in a safe, comfortable, fun and informative way that you will never forget.

Tickets can be purchased from the City Sightseeing Tour Offices at the Gautrain Park Station and inside Gold Reef City; online at www.citysightseeing.co.za or on the bus using a debit or credit card.

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