Just shopping at the Oriental Plaza is a great experience itself for this is a unique shopping mall nestled on the outskirts of Johannesburg CBD.
However, the story of how the mall was established is not only motivating but challenging for it was not a stroll in the park for the founding fathers of the Plaza.
Rounded up by the security forces during the apartheid epoch, the Indian traders of the day were driven out of Page view’s 14th street to where Oriental Plaza is located presently and they had to regroup in order to re-endear themselves to their loyal customers.
The plaza was established in the mid-70s but, nonetheless, the initial days of trading at the mall were not rosy as the traders had been removed from their thriving establishments to a virtually unknown territory.
“The first then years of operations at the plaza were extremely difficult that many of the businesses did not survive. During that period at least 30 percent of the unit owners either folded, sold their businesses off to others made mergers or left Oriental Plaza altogether”, during those forgettable days, the centre would only attract at least a thousand customers a month but today more than a million people come to the plaza as it has made a name for being one of Jo’burgs most unique regional shopping malls/centres.
What makes Oriental Plaza a unique shopping mall is that it’s owned by the shop owners at the complex. About 50 to 70 traders came together and said “let’s make this centre a success” and gradually, the Plaza found its feet. The cornerstone of the success of the mall is that it provides goods that cannot be found anywhere in the city.
The City of Gold would never have been the same without Oriental Plaza. Today the imposing complex houses at least 350 stores, it has also helped in changing the lives of Jo’burgers in different ways. Oriental Plaza has created employment for hundreds of people.
The Oriental Plaza is also involved in various social responsibility initiatives. Annually donations that come from the centre run into millions of rands, each owner gives in his own capacity to charity. Before the winter season starts biting, the plaza distributes a lot of blankets and clothing to many homeless people in the city.
On entering the Oriental Plaza you could be excused for thinking that you are in Delhi, Nepal or at any major Indian mall, market and commercial centre, all wrapped in one destination.
The aromatic smells of curries and incense that are hung in the air are strong and engulfing; enough to tickle one’s palate senses to the climax thus triggering sudden cravings and excruciating hunger pangs. You have now entered the Plaza; stop salivating by picking a restaurant and sitting down to an impromptu meal. Any restaurant in here will be good, no doubt.
PERFECTION IS ACHIEVED NOT WHEN THERE IS NOTHING MORE TO ADD, BUT WHEN THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO TAKE AWAY.
Walking about, brooding on the sidewalks or peeping through the windows you will encounter the ever-present, in-your-face hustle and bustle of traders enticing you and all to spend and spend. Not a difficult thing though at the Plaza; here is about anything available for laden credit cards including the flavorful eats to jewellery, the fabrics and furnishings or whatever else for that matter.
The Plaza provides a delicate balance between western-type shopping and craft markets in the city centre. For decades the Indian tradesman – and women – have offered real bargains on pretty much any of their wares be it electronics and house ware, exotic Indian herbs, spices and cosmetics. Their real specialty though has always been textiles clothing, shoes jewellery and apparels.
The contents of the stores spill out onto the sidewalks and rolls of fabric are stacked around the doors and on tables outsides the shops such that you cannot miss what you fancy. There are tables of pots, pans and crockery, small kiosks of hair accessories gleaming in the sun, samoosa and chilli bite stalls, and hundreds of straw baskets of all shapes and sizes. At the Plaza you can get anything from an exotic teaspoon to a brand button to designer gold jewellery.
The Oriental Plaza, situated one kilometer west of the inner city, was opened in the mid 1970s in Fordsburg. The complex covers 17 hectares and consists of three sections – a north and south uncovered section of sprawling single-storey is linked by a three-storey circular shopping areas called the “grand bazaar”.
So, if you love haggling for a price and enjoy going home with armfuls of bargains, the prices are not fixed and bartering is part of the experience. Prices are 30 to 40% cheaper than elsewhere and this includes branded names so quality is not compromised. The Plaza is also a bridal paradise for fairytale weddings and it has the largest range of seasonal designer clothing and jewellery to suit all personalities and styles.
Today the Oriental Plaza with its unique open-air atmosphere not only attracts people from Gauteng and surrounding areas but also visitors from all over the continent. The Plaza is unpretentious, under-stated and modern. Although it is known for its exotic variety of fabrics sold at discount prices, not everyone realizes that it’s also a prime shopping destination of you are looking to by unique artifacts, textiles, jewellery, leather goods and crafts, with so much no offer, which shop would you like to visit first?