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Pride Journey: A Celebration of Nelson Mandela

I typically focus on a specific destination when I travel, but on a recent trip to South Africa, I was inspired to visit a few sites that pay tribute to the late, great Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years before becoming the leader of South Africa.

Begin your journey in Johannesburg and check in to Sanctuary Mandela, his former home which has recently been converted into a luxurious boutique hotel. Guests can stay in one of nine rooms, each named after one of Mandela’s nicknames. The hotel features a ton of artifacts and historical documents signed by the former President as well as numerous pieces of artwork which pay him homage including a piece portraying him as a victorious boxer. Boxing was Mandela’s favorite sport although he lost many of his fights. One can say that although he lost in the ring, he was victorious in his lifelong fight outside the ring.

The restaurant and bar on the ground floor is open to the public and offers a selection of Mandela’s favorite dishes. On my visit, I tried the Braised Oxtail Ravioli and pan-seared fish of the day prepared in a spicy West African tomato sauce, which was cooked to perfection and accompanied by toasted pumpkin seeds and spinach.

Also in Johannesburg is The Apartheid Museum which opened in 2001 and is acknowledged as the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the apartheid story. The exhibits have been assembled and organized by a multi-disciplinary team of curators, filmmakers, historians, and designers. They include provocative film footage, photographs, text panels, and artifacts illustrating the events and human stories that are part of the horrific period in our history, known as apartheid.

Continue your history lesson with a visit to the Nelson Mandela capture site, located about an hour outside of Durban. Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962, outside Howick, Natal, South Africa and the popular attraction takes visitors on a journey of Mandela’s life from his upbringing, advocacy, capture, release, and Presidency.

The self-guided tour is a rollercoaster ride of emotions culminating in the long walk to freedom, an outdoor exhibition that creates a timeline of milestones in Mandela’s life. At the end of the walk is a fascinating sculpture of Mandela created by Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose. From a distance, it is hard to make out the figure but as you approach you can slowly begin to see Mandela’s face emerge. I was lucky enough to be alone on the path so I got an unobstructed view of the sculpture.

It’s a beautiful tribute to a man that still means so much to the South African people.

Next up, visit Robben Island located off the coast of Cape Town. Visitors will be transported to a painful time in South African history. Standing in the jail cell that housed Nelson Mandela for so many years makes the emotional story of the South African struggle for democracy and equality hit home.

When you set foot on the island, you’re able to see the cell in which Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he was incarcerated. It’s a place many have come to be humbled and to pay homage to the father of South African democracy, including the likes of former US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

On ‘the island’, as it became known among anti-apartheid stalwarts, the leaders of ‘the Struggle’ forged their political thinking and the relationships that would become a feature of post-apartheid South Africa. It was also here that Mandela emerged as a leader of the African National Congress.

The island became an informal ‘university’, where the prisoners who were to become the next generation of political leaders in South Africa spent many hours in debate and discussion. Isolated from family and friends, Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and Ahmed Kathrada, among others, proved themselves to be men of steel, never wavering in their hope of a new South Africa.

It was for this reason that Unesco’s World Heritage Committee chose to mark this location for its ‘triumph of the human spirit’. It’s one of the world’s greatest cultural heritage destinations, both for its tragedy and its triumph.


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