The market is 150 years old and there is talk of a remodelling into a shopping mall.
From the colourful fruits, vegetables and grains display of Market Street, we walked into the corner of Julius Nyerere Street and the bovine market where, people sat on benches eating whole or parts of huge bovine heads with samp to my utter carnivorous delight. Others ate hollowed out bread loaves stuffed with beans and rice called bunny chow.
From the bovine market, we walked a labyrinth of bridges, alleys and narrow streets through the music market, herb market, Berea station, clay market and many more markets than l can remember. It was a sensory overload and a struggle for Doung and Rike to keep us together as we all kept wandering off, drawn in by one piece of spectacle or other. I was particularly fascinated by the Hazrath Badsha Peer market, which borders the shrine and West Street cemetery. Here Edwardian style pinafores as well as Zulu traditional hats and shoes are sold. Hazreth Badsha Peer was a Muslim saint and there is a yearly weeklong ceremony to honour him when all suspend market activities. Right behind the shrine are the Christian, Muslim and Jewish cemeteries in adjacent but segregated sites.
The highlight of the day was the herbalist bridge on David Webster Street. Here Sangomas and Inyangas had stalls for consultation to dispense herbs and other forms of healing. There was an abundance of herbs with almost calligraphic sign displays as well as roots, plants and animal parts.
A group of young girls with bare upright breasts covered in short net like tank tops and in short colourful wrapper appeared suddenly and began an energetic enthralling dance just like that. It was not a tourist ministry or FIFA approved sideshow but an honest to the gods moment of magic. We stood and watched in wonder whilst people simply went about their normal business, apparently this was de rigueur. I whipped out my phone and tried to capture the moment.
I wanted to stay within this enclave of non-commercialized enterprise and aliveness where exchange of goods and money appears to be an excuse for human interaction. This was an insight from Doung who had just been informed that his wife had delivered a baby so we hurried to the more touristy Victoria street market area with its huge outlet stores mingling with street traders and individually owned, mostly Indian shops selling incense, grains, spices, beadworks, skins and curios.
By now we had all worked up a big appetite and we were led into an authentic Indian vegetarian fast food place called little Gujurati. This place is apparently an institution and I am awed by the efficiency, warmth and innovative food. It has a no nonsense factory like attitude without the detachment. That’s the thing about Durban, if you like Indian food as l do, this is your city. The interaction between generations of Indians, Zulus and other cultures has produced a distinct Durban Indian food flavour that is hard to rival. Durban curry is truly special and any old Indian dive in Durban can deliver lamb curry to die for.
This was the best experience of my Durban visit but unfortunately one that many tourists will not experience out of fear. There is a theory that South Africa’s undeniable security issues are often magnified or indeed created by unscrupulous political and economic interest to fuel the business of providing security. That is the other thing about this trip, l seem to be hearing a lot of conspiracy theories which read like sci fi. l suspect the truth lies somewhere in between. What would be great is a true acceptance and understanding of the diverse cultures and interest that make up this city and a re imagination of future city plans and redesign to accommodate these.
Now that will be a heck of a Durban. We caught a taxi (mini bus) and squeezed our insignificant bottoms into the seats, making rapid conversations in humped poses before fond farewells.
Later that day, the Dutch trounced the Brazilians as l watched in shock with an all-black, all Dutch supporting audience in a stadium in Umlazi. l am once again struck by the seeming irrationality of human behaviour and experience even as l know there is a young Dutchman somewhere in the city holding a hopefully playful middle finger up to me for all the corky abuse earlier in the day on the DALA city walk