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​MIDRAND, a top-class suburb in Joburg’s northeast, is not just a thriving business area; it has much to offer in leisure and tourism.

Its secrets were revealed to various people in the tourism industry during a tour organised by the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC) and the Midrand Tourism Association on Thursday, 31 May.

Liveable CitiesAlong for the ride were local tour operators and owners of companies, chefs, tourism reporters and others involved in the tourism sector - all eager to find out more about the suburb's under-explored tourist attractions.

The tour started at Bytes Technology Conference Centre in Halfway Gardens, exploring what the centre had to offer. It is used to host a variety of small, medium and large functions.

Facilities include a 300-seater auditorium with with writing desks and the latest audio visual equipment, as well as a function room and a break-away room.

According to a member of the Midrand Tourism Association, Jennifer Howard, owner of Create and Tour, a tour operating company, the suburb did well as a business and conferencing location, “benefiting a lot from business meetings. Its proximity to the Gautrain station makes it a preferred area for holding big events.”

zooMost of the animals at Lory Park Zoo are endangered
Turkish mosque
Next up was a stop at the Turkish Mosque, a stone’s throw away.

The large building, a majestic presence visible from the M1 highway between Joburg and Tshwane, has a distinct design. At night it is particularly spectacular.

From the outside, the mosque looks ancient – thanks to its design, which dates back 500 years. It is modelled on the fabulous Selimiye Camisi mosque in Edirne, Turkey.

It is inside that the mosque is at its most impressive, a blend of many bright colours, with tiled walls and hand-painted iconic murals. It took seven painters 16 months to complete the blend of painting. Finishing materials including doors, tiles and windows were imported from Turkey. This monumental building took 30 months to put up.

The mosque's imam, Ibrahim Atasoy, explained that once the complex was complete, it would also have a primary school, conferencing centre, dining hall and clinic. Atasoy said the school would be open to every member of the community, irrespective of their religious belief, and non-Muslims were welcome to register their children.

The biggest mosque in southern Africa, it was financed by Turkish property developer Ali Katircioglu who brought a group of Turkish professionals out to South Africa for the construction, keeping strictly to the methods of the old country.

Animals and all
David Lekgaobe shows offDavid Lekgaobe of Gecko Jewellers and Mapatiza shows off some of the stone productsAfter the mosque, there was a stop at Lory Park Zoo where many of the animals are endangered species. Visitors can see big cats such as the Bengal tiger, cheetah, lynx, jaguar, leopard, lion, puma and Siberian tiger, smaller cats like the ocelot, and a variety of primate species. There is also a large variety of birds and reptiles.

Another fascinating stop was Gecko Jewellers and Mapatiza on Mercury Avenue Crowthorne, where visitors can find out about mining different kinds of stone as well as the processes involved in refining stones and making jewellery.

Along the route, the group stopped at the South African Mint Museum to find out how coins were made.

The museum, on the Old Johannesburg Road parallel to the N1 Ben Schoeman Highway, has coins that reflect the numismatic history of the country as well as various artefacts and pieces of equipment that were used to manufacture coins and dies. They also had a glimpse of some of the jewellery on sale.

The tour ended at Tinswalo at Waterfall, a boutique hotel just off Maxwell Drive in the Waterfall Equestrian Estate.

Other popular places in Midrand include Gallagher Estate and Kyalami Race Course. It also has a small airport, Grand Central Airport.

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