After the weeks spent in some of the world’s most desolate regions, our arrival in Johannesburg might as well be a landing on a different planet. The eight lane highways, leafy suburbs, cool cafes and glitzy shopping malls (full of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry…) are about as far from the Danakil country as one could get.
The “rainbow nation” defies paradigms. 20 years after the end of apartheid, the different suburbs of Jo’burg are still segmented along colour lines. Yet Soweto, the old black township, has become a mostly middle class neighborhood with pretty cottages lining the neat streets.
The inner city with its impressive skyline has the slightly menacing look of New York city in the eighties, with garbage strewn along the streets, smoke rising from rusty bins and shady characters gathered at street corners sizing up the strangers passing through their neighborhood. Yet the art deco buildings which house the headquarters of the big mining companies sit in their oasis of greenness.