National Geographic : 2004 Apr
thought it "Monte Carlo superimposed EDGE I upon Sodom and Gomorrah." villas The businessmen who financed the of the mines and grew rich upon their pre- white cious ore were called Rand Lords (the peopl "rand" referring to Witwatersrand). ingsc They built stone mansions along the ridges and hillsides and planted their gardens with exotic trees: jacarandas from the West Indies, oaks and chestnuts from England, blue gums and flame trees from Australia. Today as you fly into Johannesburg International Airport, you see a dense canopy of irrigated green, through which wink the pristine swim ming pools and lush shaved lawns of the north ern suburbs. The plane banks into its final approach, and suddenly you're over Soweto, a constellation of 39 neighborhoods originally named the South Western Townships. They were established in 1904 (after bubonic plague broke 70 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * APRIL 2004 CITY East of Johannesburg's core, red-roofed house well-to-do whites. Making up 53 percent city's residents before the end of apartheid, s now form just 16 percent of its 3.2 million e. Their numbers continue to fall as blacks seek arce jobs crowd formerly white neighborhoods. out in Jo'burg's slums), ten miles from the city center-downwind of the huge piles of tailings that rose like yellow pyramids along side the mines. Much of that gold is now exhausted, and Jo'burg has long since reinvented itself as the commercial and financial capital of Africa. These are less labor-hungry pursuits, mostly requiring skilled and literate workers, and so the days are over when all you needed to get a job here was a good pair of lungs and a will ingness to work underground at temperatures well above 100°F.