Durban fun, minus beach

After struggling through a Gauteng winter more suitable for Eskimos and polar bears, imagine my joy at the opportunity to spend a couple of days in tropical Durban.

After struggling through a Gauteng winter more suitable for Eskimos and polar bears, imagine my joy at the opportunity to spend a couple of days in tropical Durban.

Time spent in the warm Indian Ocean climate, balmy nights strolling along the Golden Mile, cocktails at one of any number of bars lining the beachfront promenade. All these thoughts kept flashing through my mind . sheer bliss.

Unfortunately, I arrived in a Durban that had just been issued with a weather warning of "gale-force winds, rough seas and driving rain." Just my luck.

So with the beach ruled out, what is there to do in Durban and its surrounds when the weather turns foul? Well, quite a lot actually.

After reading that Durban is home to the largest Indian community outside of India itself, I thought it might be interesting to pop along to one of the many mosques in the city.

By accident, I came across the Darbaar Mosque in Umgeni Road, Springfield.

Situated about 15 minutes outside the Durban city centre, this mosque is the prayer centre for thousands of Muslims in the area.

The mosque is open to the public, but according to the head priest (imam) Hagezhabweb Soofie, it is best to make an appointment.

"If we have enough notice we can provide you with a guide who can explain what happens in the mosque.

"We have had a number of tourist groups from America and China visit us and we provide a short talk on Islam," said Soofie.

Unfortunately, I had not made an appointment so my time was restricted, but nonetheless enlightening.

Soofie took me through the ritual of cleansing oneself before you come face-to-face with God.

"Before you communicate with God Himself, clean your body. Then you can clean your heart," added Soofie.

"I am the fourth-generation head priest and studied for five years. I was taught by my father so you can see it runs in our family. Islam teaches you to be a God-conscious person.

"The azaan - call to prayer - takes place five times a day. That is why true Muslims should carry a prayer mat with them so that they can pray at the required times.

"All they need is some clean space," he concluded.

If you need more information, contact 083-284-6920. Entrance is free and it is a stimulating way to spend half-an-hour.

From the mosque it was off to the Shark Tank at Absa Stadium - home to the Sharks rugby team.

Even if you are not a die-hard rugby fan, you will find it interesting strolling around the Shark Tank which sells a wide range of merchandise related to the team.

It is also possible to pop in to the stadium itself to get a feel of what it must be like when fans pack the stadium.

The Tank is open from 8.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday and entrance is free.

Telephone 031-308-8444 for more information.

Just across the road from the stadium is Kingspark Pool.

Inside is a heated eight-lane, international-standard pool that is ideal when the weather is cold.

Outside lies a cold-water pool that has diving boards for those brave enough to test their skills.

Prices are very reasonable for a day's fun: adults pay R8,90 and children R4,40. For more information telephone 031-312-0404.

Just up the road from the pool lies the Suncoast Casino.

Painted in slightly garish colours, the casino is similar to so many scattered throughout the country today.

A food court houses all the usual restaurants and fast-food outlets.

Also on offer are Nu-Metro cinemas and a special area for children.

Entrance is free to the complex and you can telephone 031- 328-3000 for more information.

Exit the casino and head south for about a kilometer and you will come across an ice skating rink. Unfortunately, it was closed when I visited, but for R30 you get a two-hour skating session, a burger and a juice.

Telephone 011-332-4595 for more information regarding opening hours.

After all this it was time for a cheap and cheerful snack, and there is no better place than the Coconut Groove Roadhouse in Blue Lagoon.