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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: May 28, 3:52 PM UK
Durban Stadium

Nick Bidwell

Name Durban Stadium
Year completed 2009
Cost US$200,000,000
Capacity 70,000 (54,000 post-tournament)
Home to To be confirmed
Trivia The stadium is built on the site of the old Kings Park Soccer Stadium, which was demolished in 2006 using 126kg of explosives. The multi-purpose venue includes an indoor arena, football museum, sports institute and a transport hub

The Durban Stadium, the venue for five group matches, one second-round game and a semi-final, is a sumptuous, newly-built 70,000 arena close to the Indian Ocean in the Stamford Hill district to the north of downtown. Along with the Green Point in Cape Town, this three-tier wonder is the most visually breathtaking of the World Cup 2010 venues, with its focal point being the Wembley-like arch, along which a cable car will run.

Frequent buses will shuttle back and forth between the city centre and the Moses Mabhida - named after an anti-apartheid campaigner - on match days, while park-and-ride facilities will be sited at a number of Durban's main shopping malls.

Where to go, what to see The capital of the Kwa-Zulu-Natal region and the third-largest city in South Africa, tropical Durban is in many ways a little piece of India on the eastern coast of the Rainbow Nation.

Thanks to the huge numbers of Indians shipped to this part of the world to work in the sugar cane fields in the second-half of the 19th century, sub-continental influences have played a massive part in the city's development and continue to impact to this day.

The legacies are many and varied. You'll find the vivid architecture and the bazaars, mosques and temples of the Indian quarter on the western side of the city centre on Grey and Victoria streets. Then there is Durban's love affair - some would say obsession - with the curry and the political heritage of Mahatma Gandhi, who, before emerging as a key figure in Indian independence, worked as a solicitor and minority rights activist in Durban, serving as a role model for the father of modern South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

Don't miss the bustling, colourful Indian district of alleyways, arcades, street vendors, spice merchants, fish market and the ubiquitous cheap and cheerful takeaways that never stop churning out the local speciality of 'bunny chow', a hollowed out half white loaf filled with curry or beans. Victory Lounge on the corner of Grey and Victoria streets is arguably the best, but it's hard to find a poor version of Durban's very own fast food.

For a more luxurious curry experience, make tracks to Palki on Musgrave Road in the suburb of Musgrave or the Jewel of India on Snell Parade, Stamford Hill, an award-winning eatery on the seafront with the emphasis on northern Indian specialities. Anything prawn-based is fantastic, as is the biryani. However, be warned that curries in this neck of the woods only tend to be of the hot, hot, hot variety. No chef has heard of mild.

In terms of the quality of the food, range of cuisines and atmosphere, the best spot to eat out in the city is the Berea, the collective name for the leafy suburbs north and west of the city centre (Morningside, Essenwood and Musgrave). Spiga d'Oro on the lively Florida Road serves up pasta like mama used to make, while the 9th Avenue Bistro (in the Avonmore Centre in Morningside) should satisfy even the most fussy of palates. The Caesar salad here is out of this world, as are the scallops and seared tuna steaks.

Florida Road is home to a seemingly never-ending line of enticing bars and cafes. The raucous Billy the B.U.M's on Windermere Road in Morningside pulls off the delicate balancing act of being part-trendy cocktail bar, part-decent eatery. Inevitably, the Florida-style beachfront has more than its share of fast-food joints, bars and clubs, with Durban institution Joe Cool's, a hybrid of restaurant, watering hole and nightclub, packing them in just by the North Beach pier.

The beachfront also has two major tourist attractions in the uShaka Marine World and the Sun Coast Casino. Open from 10am to 5pm and costing R74 ($10.25) for adults and R58 ($8) for children, Marine World, on Addington Beach, is a true water wonderland, featuring the biggest collection of sharks in the southern hemisphere, a massive aquarium, a seal stadium, dolphinarium and the showpiece Sea World, a stunning mock-up of an old cargo ship.

In addition, it boasts pools, water slides, many rides, two fine restaurants (Moyo and Cargo Hold) and a shopping centre. The casino, a huge art deco-style complex on Snell Parade, has all the usual slot machines and gambling tables plus a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and its own private beach.

Shark-protected beaches stretch for six kilometres from beyond Umhlanga Rocks in the north to the Bluff in the south. With temperatures around the 23 degree Celsius mark in June and July and South Africa's warmest waters at hand, a World Cup dip should be a more than pleasant prospect. The beach area will play host to the tournament Fan Park, its video wall and all the other trimmings.

Durban's main shopping malls include the Pavilion on the outskirts of town in Westville on the N3 highway and the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga. Incidentally, Durban is a great place for a retail bargain, hosting many factory outlets.

While a hire car is undoubtedly the best way to discover Durban - although it has be said that it is more expensive in KwaZulu-Natal than elsewhere in the republic - the bus service is not bad at all. The service known as Mynah does a good job of covering the central areas (the city centre, beachfront, Berea and Florida Road) and, at just R5 per trip, it represents good value, too. Another excellent option is the Durban People Mover, which operates modern buses along two routes: from the beachfront to the city centre and the length of the seafront.

The main railway station, New Durban, is found a little north of the central business district, just off Masabalala Avenue. All the major inter-city buses roll into the motor coach terminal right by the rail station. A new airport, the King Shaka International, is due to open in time for the World Cup at La Mercy, some 30km north of the city. A taxi from the beach to the much-favoured nightlife strip, Florida Road, will set you back about 30 rand ($4).

Despite the numerous high-rise hotels along the promenade, you will get considerably more bang for your accommodation buck in the Berea, which has many welcoming B&Bs and guesthouses. To seal the deal, many such establishments will arrange transport for you to and from the airport.

The World Cup hordes heading to Durban this summer are going to have a blast.

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