Many large cities will boast of their cultural diversity: you'll see a Chinatown here, a Little Italy there, a Latvian Niche right around the corner (well, maybe not so much outside of Latvia), a Middle Eastern family running the grocery; you know, the true and total "melting pot" they tell you about in grade school Social Studies. Such limited cultural diffusion hardly ever results in a set of foreign customs becoming embedded in the fabric of a city. An exception is South Africa's Durban, whose population is a quarter Indian and whose roots in Xhosa and Zulu customs are still well-represented today.
The Indian influence is more just the number of people in the city. The markets are different than others in South Africa, with the Victoria Street Market selling innumerable Asian spices among its usual African curios. The mosques are more prevalent, with the elegant Juma Masjid serving as one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and an excellent starting point from which to explore the surrounding Indian neighborhood, formerly known as Grey Street and currently called Dadoo Street (downtown). The Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre on the corner of Epsom and Derby Streets is also a must for giving a balanced understanding of Indian history in the region, while the Phoenix Settlement is a spiritual haven in Inanda created by Gandhi himself.
There is also a lot to see pertaining to traditional African culture while in and around Durban. While many first world travelers want some sort of “authentic” tribal experience, the idea in itself is a conundrum. “Authentic” in African society today will usually be scripted, but it will be safe, accurate, and entertaining. Whether you are doing a township tour or visiting a place like the Shakaland Zulu Cultural Village, this will be better than braving more dangerous areas on your own. Other than the aforementioned Cultural Village, which is located two hours south of Durban, one may also explore the torrid history of war between the native Zulu and the imperial British, commemorated in the KwaZulu Natal Battlefields. The white stone piles across these vast vistas remain an unpleasant reminder of the lives lost over the years to the colonizing process.
Much of what draws travelers to Durban are the more modern leisure and entertainment facilities, particularly along the Golden Mile, where swimming, gambling, and amusement areas are of particular interest. Then again, how can you not get excited when joining the 50,000 shouting fans at a rugby match at Kings Park and Moses Mabhida Stadiums? For more information on what else is available in Durban or more ways to fill your trip planner, take a look through our culture pages or talk with our embark community.