As the gyms become more crowded with those trying to get a head start on working off the decadence of the Christmas feast, it dawned on me that I have not yet bought a single gift. So, if like me, you have neglected your gifting duties due to your holiday plans, fear not! I have compiled a list of the ten best gifts to get while on holiday in sunny South Africa and with the expert skills of local craftsmen at your disposal, the gifts are sure to impress. Not only will you be known for your selflessness during your big holiday but the story behind the gift is what will always keep on giving. The list is made up of strategically noise free items, yes we love the vuvuzela here, but I can’t imagine you’d be too popular and exile is not something I want for you.
1. If you are in the Cape Winelands, be sure to pick up a bottle of Pinotage – the grape varietal is unique to South Africa. With most of the estates having quirky stories or heavily eventful histories, a bottle or 6 will ensure the spirit of the Cape is with you all the way home. If this is your gift of choice, I would advise that you check with your airline about regulations for carrying alcohol (we don’t want you to leave empty bottled now do we?). Many of the wineries offer a delivery service ensuring your purchase is waiting for you when you get home.
2. As an antidote to the digital disease, traditional South African toys for kids make for a change under the tree. The local curio shops might even substitute for large retail toy chains as they cater for boys and girls of varying ages and interests. For the little girls in the family, Ndebele dolls make for precious playthings while the famous wire-frame not-so-remote-control cars of the townships appeal to little boys.
3. A definite take home is one of the many Nguni hide products. With cushions, rugs and ottomans that are exceptionally well tanned and breathtakingly beautiful, it is really just an excuse to buy property in South Africa to furnish… as a gift to yourself.
4. If you have a friend who enjoys face time with the mirror more than they do with you, show them you understand them by taking them some traditional, natural skin care products. The Rooibos (that’s red bush to the Brits) is a plant used to make our world famous tea and the beauty benefits are one of Africa’s best kept secrets. Until now that is.
5. In the wake of that soccer-thing-that-can’t-be-named-that-everyone-came-to-South-Africa-for, the only head gear to be seen in at any event is the now legendary Makarapa hat worn by fans and supporters.
6. For your homebody friends, there are a many choices ranging from the iconic African masks to candles. My pick is one of the multitude, handcrafted lampshades. Available in ostrich shell, antelope skin or my personal favorite, porcupine quill. Available at most African themed interior stores in Cape Town or Johannesburg as well as smaller curio shops.
7. We have a little tradition in South Africa, nothing can ever be serious without first being hilarious. This is how our nation deals with our problems; by laughing. If this is something you think your country can do with then be sure to pick up a Madam & Eve cartoon book. Already household names with their domestic banter and wise cracks about the South African condition, this duo will keep you laughing all the way through customs.
8. Who could leave without a bottle of Amarula! Made from the fruit of the Marula tree, this liqueur is almost the national drink of South Africa and is delicious over ice, ice cream or served with coffee. It is also used to make the national shot, the ‘Springbok’.
9. If in Long Street (Cape Town), be sure to visit a craft market for a local favorite; the paper-mache bowl. Made from tinned food labels, this is a trend in South African known as shack chic. Take that High Street.
10. Last but certainly the most important of all is a gift to yourself. A ticket back to our sunny shores. We suspect that you might not have much room left in your luggage, so you should leave some of your things behind and come back for them next year.
And as for wrapping, I recommend using a local Afrikaans or isiXhosa newspaper to add to the foreign appeal of your gift!