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Discovering South Africa's Apartheid History Through 'District 9'

August 14, 2009 at 4:19 PM | by | Comments (0)

District 9, in theaters now, is a sci-fi extravaganza that has thrilled critics and geeks alike. The movie centers around a group of refugee aliens that arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa, and are segregated into an area called District 9.

The film's title is a direct reference to District 6, the area where thousands of South Africans were relocated during the years of apartheid. Unlike most Sci-Fi fare today, the film addresses issues like segregation head on and actually creates a real social commentary. That's not to say it doesn't have cool special effects; it still has plenty of "how'd they do that?" moments too.

Here's a look at how to get into the spirit of District 9 while visiting South Africa.

Where to Stay:
To keep with the movie's themes of separation and segregation, check into The Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg. The small boutique hotel is known for offering discreet, personalized service to the rich and famous who don't want to be bothered by the little people. To keep the world's elite safe, the hotel is protected by a 10-ft. stone wall topped with barbed wire and lined with armed guards.

The property is so big that guests don't actually see the wall or the guards from the hotel or its surrounding pool and gardens. If that isn't enough to make you feel secure, the entrance road is a maze with several gates that open randomly so guests have to wait for a hotel car to guide their own driver through the grounds. All of this security comes at a high price though, rooms currently start around $700 a night.

Where to Eat:
Moyo is one of Johannesburg's most popular touristy restaurants. They offer authentic Ethiopian cuisine served by wait staff in traditional African clothing. During the winter, they give patrons blankets to keep cozy on cold nights. They're known for their Vegetarian messob, a selection of six dishes for two people for around $22. They even have messobs, or tabletops on which food is traditionally served, and that is usually woven from straw and covered by a lid until it is time to eat.

What to Do:
Visit the Apartheid Museum for a sense of what real segregation in South Africa was like. When you enter, you will be given either a "white" or "non-white" ticket and will have to enter via your designated entrance. The exhibit is lengthy but provides a comprehensive history of apartheid through both video presentations and traditional museum exhibitions. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and admission is only $5.

Related Stories:
· City of Johannesburg [Official Site]
· District 9: The next great science fiction film? [national Post]
· The Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg :: Opulence in a High-Security Prison [HC]
· Movie Set Travel [Jaunted]

[Photo: National Post]

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