Apartheid, Food | 0 comments

“. . . loved the Friday night street food in Fordsburg!”

“Really interesting middle-eastern food influence in this old Indian and Pakistani neighbourhood”

“Great buzz on a Saturday night, much quieter during the rest of the week”

A laffa bread being thrown into the air, during it's making, outside the 'House of Schwarma', watched approvingly by Nelson Mandela!
Sugar cane being crushed to extract the juice that's used in a number of fresh juices on sale at The Juice Den in Fordsburg.


Fordsburg is Johannesburg’s “Little India”, and although not recognised as a City Improvement District, the suburb is a world away from the urban decay it experienced years ago

The suburb is an ethnic enclave, like no other, that has been the nucleus of Indian and Pakistani culture for years, but more recently, influenced with middle eastern immigrants.
People from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Syria now call it home.

The part of Fordsburg, where so much happens, covers only a few blocks, so it lends itself to taking a stroll and just absorbing the delights of the suburb.

The ‘centre’ of Fordsburg is the old Market Square, with its beautifully restored 1911 Edwardian lavatory (sadly now closed due to vandalism), is bounded by Mint, Central and Albertina Sisulu (was Main) Roads.

But Fordsburg hasn’t always been this way!

Love the dark abayas in Fordsburg, with the bright ceiling lights behind them!
Another clothes shop selling Muslim abayas in Fordsburg. Once again, I love Hollywood on the ceiling!
The inside of Swadeshi - a Hindu prayer shop in Fordsburg.

7 days a week.
Weekdays fairly quiet , but Friday and Saturday nights have a great buzz and atmosphere

Fordsburg is a predominantly Muslim area, and Alcohol is not available!

The majority of shops selling street food are in a fairly small area covering a few blocks between Mint, Central and Albertina Sisulu (was Main) Roads.
A number of places selling street food can be found in the surrounding side streets

Street parking which is often difficult to find.

The surrounding area is fairly run down, so be aware of your safety

FORDSBURG GPS Co-ordinates (hddd.ddddd)
Mint Road : S26.20536° E028.02100°
Albertina Sisulu Road : S26.20552° E028.02143°
Central Road : S26.20540° E028.02188°

Urfa, Adana and Beef Cube kebabs waiting to be ordered in the in the Istanbul Turkish Restaurant in Fordsburg
The outdoor seating area at the Istanbul Turkish Restaurant in Fordsburg, Johannesburg
Customers queuing on the pavement outside Pehlwaan's Tikka Chicken in Fordsburg
Here's more of that delicious, fire cooked Phelwaan Tikka Chicken in Fordsburg


Like so much of Johannesburg, Fordsburg went through years of urban collapse and decay.
But, again, like so much of Joburg, it was private investment and foresight, that changed all that.

In late 2009, the area on Market Square that now hosts the market and a number of food stalls was redeveloped, laying the foundation for a slow rebirth!

I don’t want to suggest shops, restaurants or street food that you should visit, as there are so many.
I suggest you wander through the streets, absorb the sights and smells, and stop where you’d like to.

The streets and shops are at their busiest on weekends, with Saturday the favourite for a night out.
A good place to start is the old Market Square, on Albertina Sisulu (was Main) Road, bounded by Mint and Central Roads, and go where your interest takes you after that.

Parking in Fordsburg is on the streets with carguards in attendance, but it can be difficult to find when busy!

Laffa bread is a middle eastern bread that is thicker and chewier than pita and is used to wrap kebab and shawarma meats
Laffa bread being stretched before being tossed into the air and then toasted!


The history of Fordsburg goes back to the founding of Johannesburg.

This was one of Johannesburg’s first suburbs to be developed by a private developer, and laid out in 1888.

An inadequate, small Indian township was laid out to the north of it (demolished to make way for Newtown in 1904), and a ‘native’ township to the north of that.

Cape Malays who migrated from Cape Town, were given land for a township to the north west – named Pageview or Fietas, and poor whites who had been attracted by the gold mines, settled in Brickfields or Burghersdorp to the north-east.

It was these racially diverse communities, living and working in close proximity to one another, that influenced Fordsburg’s multiracial character.

Buying Indian Sweetmeats at Shaheen Sweets in Fordsburg.
Chicken cooked over flames at 'Chef Faisal's Barbeque Night' in Fordsburg
'Shaheen Sweets' in Fordsburg has a great selction of the very sweet Indian sweetmeats!


A number of significant political struggles have taken place in Fordsburg.

Following World War l (July 1914 – November 1918), the world’s economy slumped, the price of gold plummeted and the gold mining companies faced rising costs.
Their decision to reduce pay, and replace countless white mine workers with blacks, led to a general strike being called by trade unions on Monday 6th March 1922.

This intensified into open rebellion, known as the Rand Rebellion, which resulted in Martial Law being imposed!
Air Force planes bombed the area and Market Square, the headquarters of the rebellion, was rocked by government artillery fire.
The rebellion was announced over on Saturday 18th March, 1922.

Sadly the market building had to be demolished after being badly damaged!

The Blue Johannesburg Heritage Plaque commemorating the Battle of Fordsburg Square on 14th March 1922, during the Rand Revolt!


The 1952 Defiance Campaign had its origins in Freedom Square and was launched on 6th April.
You can read about Nelson Mandela’s involvement in the Defiance Campaign, here

In the 1970’s, Indians living in Pageview were forcibly removed from their land to the racially segregated area of Lenasia – 30km south of Johannesburg!

The buildings in 14th Street, a flourishing shopping node at the time, were demolished!
The National Government not only destroyed the bricks and mortar, but tragically the community with it!
One building, now the Fietas Memory-In-Action Museum, remains.
The original owners have created a wonderful, albeit small, museum, in memory of their lost past.

The Indian traders, forced out of their business premises, were relocated to the Oriental Plaza, which today is a flourishing shopping mecca in the heart of Fordsburg.
This is in spite of the cruel injustices of apartheid!

'King Kabab House' sells spicy chicken, cooked over coals
Street food being sold through an open shop window in Fordsburg!
 Deep fried Jalebis made from maida flour batter and then soaked in sugar syrup. Very sweet and very moreish!
Shalimar Delights - a shop that sells Indian sweetmeats which are especially for those addicted to sugar!

Page originally created : 15th October 2014.

Whilst every attempt will be made to keep the information on this website relevant and up to date, we accept no responsibility for consequences arising from errors or omissions.
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