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

“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 made outside the 'House of Schwarma' in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, watched approvingly by Nelson Mandela!


Although Fordsburg, which is Johannesburg’s “Little India”, is not a recognised City Improvement District, it’s 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), bounded by Mint, Central and Albertina Sisulu (was Main) Roads.

But Fordsburg hasn’t always been this way! .

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

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

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.

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


This area, like so much of Joburg, went through years of urban collapse and decay.
But, once 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 or restaurants you should visit, as there are so many.
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.
Parking is in the roads, with car guards in attendance.

Use the old Market Square, on Albertina Sisulu (was Main) Road, bounded by Mint and Central Roads as a start, and go where your interest takes you.

Brightly coloured abayas on sale in one of the many shops in Fordsburg selling Muslim clothing.


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.

Johannesburg's best chicken tikka cooked over flames at 'Pehlwaan's Tikka House' in Fordsburg


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!
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!

A Blue Plaque commemorating the final stand of the Rand Revolt on 14th March 1922, where mine workers on strike, fought Government troops in the Battle of Fordsburg Square


The 1952 Defiance Campaign had its origins in Freedom Square, when launched on 6th April 1952.
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 – today a flourishing shopping mecca in the heart of Fordsburg, in spite of the cruel injustices of apartheid!

A fridge full of very sweet, and very decadent Indian sweetmeats in Shaheen Sweets and Bakers
No alcohol is available in Fordsburg, but this juice shop selling freshly squeezed fruit juice, using sugar cane as a base, is very popular!
Istanbul Kebab Shwarma is one of a number of Turkish restaurants in Fordsburg, Johannesburg

Page originally created : 15th October 2014.