Tucked away, just west of the city centre, is another world, and in many ways a special world that is a tribute to its people. It was born in the 1970’s when, in terms of the forced application of apartheid, Indian traders in Vrededorp and Pageview were relocated. They were offered space in what is the Oriental Plaza, where they could buy their shops. Some managed to do so, but others lost their livelihood. So, instead of trading amongst the people, they had to attract the people to them, which they set out to do. Those who wished to came to them – as people now do, under different circumstances in the great shopping malls that have been developed.
However, where the great malls are, in a way, escapist fantasy lands with prices to match, the Oriental Plaza is a plunge into the midst of a people who have adapted to a situation and made it work for them. On and around the open spaces, there are shops and goods everywhere. Every possible space is utilised and, just when you think you have seen it all, you find another passage with more shops and items on display.
There appears to be something for everyone: Bedding and Linen, Book stores, Cellphones and Accessories, Crockery and Cutlery, Curtaining, Dress Materials, Eastern Wear, Electronic Items, Sound Systems, Motor Spares, Food, Gifts, Toys and Brassware, Haberdashery, Hardware, Jewellery, Ladies Clothes, Men’s Clothes, Pet Shop, Young People’s Clothing and Toys, Shoes, Spices, Sports Goods, Luggage, Leather Goods and more. Everything, it seems, from a Liverpool FC bathmat to exotic eastern dress, from colourful drapes and fabrics to drills and chisels.
It is commercially friendly. Owners are often to be seen at the doors of their shops, ready to smile and invite you in. And often, as I paused to look, someone would appear and offer to help. Their focus seems to be on showing you what they have, making a sale, and having you leave happy. And as the Centre boasts that their prices are generally much cheaper, and the shop owners are willing to bargain, that could well happen. I had to stop myself from buying a Kaftan – just because it looked so good – and an exotic wedding suit, that I could only have worn at home, alone, and out of range of any mirror!
There are lovely names to the shops – Trust Me, Caeser’s Palace, Bhamjee’s Shoe Centre, Honey Bee Gifts and Bridal Boutique, The Guru, Housewives Paradise, Kismet Boutique, Gateway of India, and my personal favourite – Jerry’s Bridal Wear! But there are over 360 shops from which to choose and, depending on what you are looking for, it does make it simpler to compare prices.
It is easy to navigate the different levels, with stairs, ramps escalators, and lifts, and there is a secure and adequate parking area. It is worth visiting to see, and to buy, and if you enjoy watching people, fascinating.
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