Once a year, the richest, most populated and the most prosperous city in sub-Saharan Africa becomes a ghost town.
The seemingly endless throng has long since left for sunny beaches and places ‘anywhere but here‘. Each wandering soul has taken their worries and stress along with them and left the city to itself for a blissful few weeks. Like a great beast, a languishing lion after sating itself, it takes a deep breath and exhales the tension that has built up and just lets go. Its frantic grip on life softens, just a little, just for a moment, just enough to let the natural world catch up and wash away the past.
Everything slows to the gentle tempo of a slow melody, the quiet rhythms only our great deep dark Africa can make. A peaceful calm settles like a soft mist over everything and everyone still here. Sounds of birds whistle through the canopy of trees that blanket everything in deep variegated shades of jade and shroud the dark snaking asphalt streets, deserted and lonely pathways to everywhere and nowhere in particular. The very air seems lighter, clearer and somehow brighter. Wind swirls and spins forgotten newspapers like ballerinas between towering buildings and across swathes of dusty concrete parking lots. Even the raging storms of blasting thunder and crackling bursts seem calmer, going on their way faster and leaving only that smell of sharp clear electrified air.
The roar of modern life seems a dull whisper of the past, humming quietly, barely there, mostly forgotten. People wander the streets they never walk, they smile and laugh and sit back a little more relaxed, with a little less of a scowl, a little more hope, a little more sparkle in their eyes.
Just for a while, our city takes a break and just is, a city of gold.
I love Johannesburg over the holidays.