Immerse yourself in South Africa’s cultural heritage as you explore the ‘cradle of democracy’


Apart from great beaches, adventure activities, street markets, delicious Bunny Chows and botanical gardens, the city of Durban is also known for its historical significance. The eThekwini Inanda Heritage Route in the Inanda Valley, located north of Durban, gives travelers the opportunity to explore the remarkable historical legacy that has shaped South Africa’s future. The Inanda Heritage Trail is home to very critical elements not only of South African history, but also of India’s past. So much so that Inanda is widely dubbed the “cradle of South African democracy”.

The Inanda Valley has witnessed great historic moments as two of the world’s greatest leaders – Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi fought for equality, justice and peace in its front yard. From this valley, Nelson Mandela voted for the first time as a black person in South Africa’s first democratic elections. Gandhi’s famous satyagraha movement was also conceptualized here.

With a fascinating past, the Inanda Heritage Tour is sure to awaken the history buff in you. The tour also provides insight into the rich culture and beliefs of Durban’s local communities.

Phoenix Rules

The trail starts at this village. Located 20 kilometers north of Durban, it was founded by Gandhi in 1904. He remained there and published his weekly newspaper ‘Indian Opinion’ until it closed in 1961. The settlement is on a 100 acre farm which currently consists of Gandhi’s house ‘Sarvodaya’ where he lived with his family, the printing house building from where he published the weekly, his son Manilal’s house and the Phoenix Interpretation Center where lectures are held always given. It was here that he published his first book – Indian Home Rule. The settlement that used to have clinics, schools, and homes, has become a symbol of self-reliance, work, and simple community living. It was also an important site of resistance during the apartheid era in South Africa, as activists from across the country congregated there.

Ohlange Institute

Opened in 1901, the Ohlange Institute was the first black-controlled institution in South Africa at a time when it was believed that black people could not develop or run their own institutions. It was built by John Dube, the founding president of the current ruling party – the African National Congress (ANC). In South Africa’s first democratic elections, Mandela voted for the first time from the chapel of this institute. He traveled all the way from Pretoria to vote in this historic vote. Needless to say, the Ohlange Institute is one of the most important stops on the Inanda trail.

Inanda Seminar

Inanda Seminary for Girls was the first and only school for black girls in South Africa. Today it is the oldest girls’ boarding school in the country. It was one of the few mission schools in South Africa to remain independent throughout the apartheid years. A missionary couple in South Africa built the seminary for the girls so they could also be educated. Today the school is functional with a beautiful old building and gardens. It also has a well maintained museum and archives.

Shembe settlement of Ekuphakameni and Ebuhleni

If you love history and culture, the settlements of Shembe are a must visit. Shembe is a local South African religion and the Shembe Church is one of the most important churches in Africa. Ekuphakameni has the original Shembe Temple built in 1918 by volunteers, while the Shembe International Church is located in Ebuhleni. Every January thousands of believers visit Ebuhleni for the annual pilgrimage to a holy mountain and again in July for a festival.

Mziyanthi Falls

The route also includes a sacred waterfall, used for religious purposes such as baptismal ceremonies at Ibandla LamaNazaretha (the Baptist Church of Nazareth). At the foot of the cliff are the Rasta caves which have rock houses. These rock houses are home to a community called Rastafarians who live and practice a peaceful lifestyle near the base of these falls. Visit these falls to better understand their cultural practices.

Inanda Dam

This dam is an important water reservoir in the eThekwini region. Regular bass fishing competitions have been held at the dam since 1998. Canoeists who participate in the annual Dusi Canoe Marathon camp at Inanda before continuing their journey. A jazz festival – with local music – also takes place in this area. An archaeological dig before the construction of the dam unearthed many artifacts dating back to the Stone Age and shed light on the country’s history. Today, several guesthouses and resorts are available near the dam. Zebras can also be spotted grazing along the shore. The dam is now known for water sports, camping, picnicking, boating, and other recreational activities.

The Inanda Historical Route recognizes and celebrates the leaders of the struggle against apartheid. Often overlooked, this place is truly an icon of the country’s freedom struggle.

Venture through this route to delve deep into South Africa’s history and culture.

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