Benoni, East Rand

Benoni is situated on the East Rand in the South African province of Gauteng. The area forms part of the Greater Johannesburg region, and since 2000 has been part of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.

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Benoni's ominous beginnings started in 1881 when the surveyor-general of the time, known as Johan Rissik, found it difficult to assign title deeds to all unclaimed state property. He named the area Benoni, meaning son of my sorrows, after the name given by Rachel to her son in the biblical Book of Genesis. In September 1887, gold was discovered and the Chimes Mine was established by Cornishmen. Sir George Farrar, the chairman of a mining company, undertook the beautification of the rapidly growing mining town in 1904. Minewater was channeled into a band of marshland, and reservoirs stocked with vibrant fish were created.

Today these beautiful reservoirs remain and the area is dotted with many lakes where people fish, boat and relax. Thousands of trees were also planted in the new suburbia and it achieved municipal status in 1907. During the 1990's Benoni was the site for the WOMAD Festival (the World of Music, Arts and Dance), an international cultural festival held annually around the world and used to showcase various artists.

Today, Benoni is very diverse, with people of every colour and denomination living here. Over time gold mining has decreased in importance. Today the town is focused more on industry and services and is used as a service hub for other East Rand towns such as Brakpan, Nigel and Springs. Benoni is also the site of the Benoni Heliport, for the use of helicopters.

When visiting Benoni, one can enjoy a visit to the local museum, enjoy superb picnics by the many lakes or shop till your hearts content at the Lakeside Shopping Mall or Northmead Square. The Lakeside Shopping Mall was built in the shape of a Mississippi Steamboat on one of the lakes. The Northmead Square is known as the first shopping centre to bring cinemas back to Benoni. Near to Northmead Square is the Bunny Park boasting hundreds of gorgeous rabbits as well as other small animals and is aimed at entertaining children.

For the sport lovers, visit the Willowmoore Park which is a provincial and One Day International Cricket venue. The world famous Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron was born in Benoni. Benoni was also the setting for the MTV-inspired, popular cult movie known as Crazy Monkey: Straight Outta Benoni, released internationally in 2005.

Benoni contains numerous attractive and tree-lined suburbs, and has a strong suburban character, quite unlike many other East Rand towns, which tend to be more industrialized.

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