Heritage Day – Durban’s Heritage

Top 10 Things that are a part of Durban’s Heritage As we celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa, it is important to look closer to home at what makes us Durbanites. Many refer to Durban as a “melting pot” of cultures, religions and races and there are specific things that make us proudly Durbanites! So […]

Top 10 Things that are a part of Durban’s Heritage

Durban Golden Mile Now - Pic By Grant Pitcher
Durban Golden Mile Now – Pic By Grant Pitcher

As we celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa, it is important to look closer to home at what makes us Durbanites.

Many refer to Durban as a “melting pot” of cultures, religions and races and there are specific things that make us proudly Durbanites!

So this is our list of Top 10 things that represent a Durban Heritage:

1. Durban City Hall

Durban City Hall
Durban City Hall

This iconic building was completed in 1910, and is over a 100 years old. the Durban city hall displays a fine example of Edwardian Neo-baroque architecture. The dome of the City Hall is also the logo of our local Ethekwini Municipality. It was designed by Stanley G. Hudson, who was inspired by the city hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Inside the hall polished wooden floors, intricate stained glass, wrought-iron balustrades, marble pillars and ornate arches are displayed.

There are three blocks located behind the facade, and are used as locations for the municipal chambers, the art gallery and library and the auditorium. 

On the second floor of the building is the Durban Art Gallery, where an impressive collection of both international and South African art can be viewed. The Natural Science Museum is also housed in the building, and displays a unique variety of stuffed animals, birds, reptiles and insects, as well as a dodo skeleton and South Africa’s only ancient Egyptian mummy.

Many of us will remember weddings, concerts and debs balls that were held here in the past.

2. Durban Bunny Chow

 Bunny Chow
Bunny Chow

The famous hollowed bread with curry that is a must amongst tourists and locals too. Durban is famous for this and It originated in the Durban Indian community in the 1940’s. Bunny chows are usually filled with curries from Durban which include: mutton or lamb, chicken, bean and chips with curry gravy are popular fillings now, although the original bunny chow was vegetarian. Bunny chows are often served with a side portion of grated carrot, chilli and onion salad, commonly known as sambals

3. Inanda Heritage

John Dube
John Dube

This route recognises historical areas in KwaZulu Natal and starts at the Inanda Township, home to the Ohlange Institute, founded by John Dube, the first president of the ANC.
The Inanda Seminary is located nearby; as one of the oldest African private schools for girls, the Seminary was established in 1869 by the missionary Mary Edwards. The buildings and gardens of the school have been immaculately restored.
Ebuhleni Village is one of the headquarters of the Shembe Church. The church has over 2 million followers and was founded 100 years ago. The Phoenix Settlement is also located nearby – this is where icon of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, developed his philosophy of passive resistance. His home has been restored and is now set up as a monument.

4. Rickshaws

Rickshaws in Durban
Rickshaws in Durban

Durban’s Rickshaw pullers have been a popular feature of the city, and especially the beach front area, since the early 1890’s. The colourful rickshaws and the interestingly dressed men with beaded costumesand horned head gear, where introduced by sugar magnate Sir Marshall Campbell, as a means of transport for his wife, which he had previously seen in India.

By 1903 an estimated two thousand rickshaw pullers were operating in Durban, taking daily commuters and tourists through the city. Unfortunately between the early sixties and the mid nineteen seventies, their numbers started to decrease. Now there are a few rickshaw pullers operating along the beachfront, who serve more as a tourist attraction.

5. Our Markets

Durban Warwick Market
Durban Warwick Market

The history of the Markets in Durban goes back to 1860. The original market was an open-air affair, located on land bound by Pine, Gardiner, Smith and Aliwal Streets. In 1876 the Durban Town Council provided a Market Building at the corner of Pine and Gardiner, behind the old Post Office building, and in 1901 a new Borough Market was built on the thin sliver of land, previously owned by the Railways, between Commercial, Railway and Pine Streets.
Durbanites love the idea of shopping and browsing through markets, whether it is for spices at Victoria Street Market, the craft I Heart Market, flea markets on the beach or locally grown vegetables at Bangladesh Indian Market, it’s a Durban thing!

6. The Durban Festive Season

Durban Beachfont
Durban Beachfont – Funworld

Durban has always been a popular destination for Christmas and the festive season. And many of our South African’s from other parts of the country make their way to our beautiful beaches to swim in the warm Indian Ocean.

If you go through albums and photographs of years gone by, a holiday picnic on the beach during the festive season is one of the most cherished memories. Our summer fruit, braais on the beach and mix of different cultures is iconically Durban.

Yes, we acknowledge Cape Town is beautiful, but the cold Atlantic ocean cannot compare to a warm Durban Christmas, and a braai on the beach with family.

7. Grey Street Mosque

Grey Street Mosque Durban
Grey Street Mosque Durban


The magnificent Juma Masjid Mosque, the largest mosque in the Southern hemisphere, dominates Durban’s central Indian district. It’s gilt-domed minarets tower over the bustling commercial area, but inside the marbled worship hall is peaceful and boasts a simple elegance.
Around the mosque, on Grey Street, are several Indian food outlets, most offering the uniquely Durban ‘bunnychow’ (half a loaf of bread scooped out and filled with curry). Off from Grey Street is the Madressa Arcade bazaar. Also in the area is the brightly painted Victoria Street Market (on the corner of Queen and Russell streets) offering incense, henna tattoos, spices and other exotic goods.

8. Beach Braai’s and Outdoor Cooking

potjie durban
Potjie on a Fire

Due to the fact that Durban rarely experiences cold weather a Braai at the beach is one of the most iconic outdoor activities for locals and tourists. Durbanites also love their outdoor cooking. From braais, to outside potjies, curries and breyani’s outdoor feasts are a Durban Heritage.

9. Diversity of religions and Culture

Durban Festival of Chariots
Durban Festival of Chariots

Durban’s people reflect a rich cultural diversity of African, Eastern and Western influences.

The Zulu people settled in Durban way before the 1820’s, thereafter the Europeans settled in Durban too. The Indian people were brought in as labourers to work in the cane fields, and later followed traders and business people from all over the world.

Durban’s Heritage stands proudly today as the most interesting unique blend of African, Indian and European cultures.

10. Our unique Durban Slang

Okay so it’s important for us to highlight our unique language or slang that is truly Durban. Durban slang is a mixture of the fast talking swag of the Indian population, the slower more relaxed speech of the beach community and the gooing in of some powerful Zulu words to dala you into being a true Durbanite. Here is a list of some of our favourites:

choon – Talk
Pozzie – house
graaf – work
dala with me – Mess with me
hundreds – Awesome
tops – Awesome

If you have any favourites that you think make up a Durban Heritage, please share them in the comments section below.