It’s a hot day in Durban, which is strange as the weather the city has been experiencing lately can be described as confusing.
The humid weather does not deter me from going on a walking tour in Durban, through the arcades and alleys of the city's iconic buildings.
I met Stuart Talbot, the developer of these walking tours at Emmanuel Cathedral. He started this as a hobby and a way to reconnect with Durban.
As we sit on one of the pews at the back of the Cathedral, Talbot tells me that he has been doing these tours for almost 10 years.
It was only in 2014, during an Architect's Convention in the city, that he started hosting regular once a month tours for both locals and international tourists.
Do not expect a mundane walking tour as Talbot found 'out of the box' ways to showcase Durban. He has five different tours.
The first tour looks at the reflections of the city, where he uses other buildings to ‘reflect’ the history of many iconic buildings.
The second tour brings out the fabrics and fashion of the city as he takes guests to experience the city’s finest material shops and fashion establishments.
Those who love green spaces will enjoy his tour that shows how these spaces shapes the city. He loves his faith in the city tour as he takes people to temples, mosques and churches, offering some history of its location.
The most popular of the the tours is the arcades and alleys that allows travellers to see a new side of Durban.
“I love showing travellers a new kind of Durban that they will remember for a long time. To prepare me, I usually spend a day exploring the city, meeting people and learning to understand.
“I essentially show off the places that resonate with me that I know my group will enjoy,” he says. Talbot's unique spin to his tours make it worthwhile to do one. While he only operates once a month, he is always open to tailor making packages for both young and old.
“I get a lot of requests and as a tour guide, it is my responsibility to make certain that I adhere to my client’s needs. I once got a call from a traveller asking me to take her on a tour on condition that I find places for her to rest every 10 minutes as she had a health condition. The tour ended up being so successful and I added so many new spots to the route.
“I am going to create a tour for an 83-year-old man who uses a mobile walker. I am looking forward to make his appearance a memorable one,” he says.
Talbot and I walk out of the cathedral. We try not to disrupt the people saying their prayers.
We are outside the Dennis Hurley Centre where we witness his unconventional way of doing his reflection tour. As we watch the brick layered building through the glass of the centre, Talbot shares some history of the place. From there, we walk the streets of Cathedral Road to the colourful Madressah alley, filled with some of the most stunning Zulu printed attire. One of the stall owners, Nisa Sultan, waves at me as she showcases what her quaint store has on offer. I am mesmerised by the full Zulu royal attire that hangs from above. The arcade is colourful and the smiles of stall owners makes me feel warm inside. As we exit the alley onto the main road, Talbot, full of glee, shows me the transition from African to Indian wear. At Lockhat arcade, there is a mix of food and fashion. Some Eastern outfits pop with colour and designs straight out of India. The smell of a bean curry permeates the air, as I eagerly hope to fill my belly with a nice beans bunny.
As we wander the streets, I see a whole new side to Durban, one that is far from the perception that people have of it not being safe. There is music and laughter in the air. There is a woman preparing an kota (type of sandwich) in a stall outside. The whiff of egg frying strikes my nostrils. There are stall owners, some selling shoes, others fruit and vegetable, who try to entice some tourists to support local. The fashion stores are one of a kind, mixing international and local fashion together with some outfits straight out of the runway.
And as we pass the Grey Street Mosque enroute to the car, I feel satisfied at the beauty that Durban streets offers. Talbot tours start from R250. For further information, contact 083 384 4410 or email [email protected]