Durban is the second largest industrial center in South Africa, with the continent's largest and most important harbor. The city has the world's largest sugar terminal, which along with tourism anchors the city's economy. Durban is also the convention capital of South Africa and has equipped itself to entertain large numbers of visitors.
The "Golden Mile" on Durban's beachfront is one long pleasure zone with an around-the-year tourist season. The endless beach features protective shark nets, swimming pools with fountains, waterslides, market stalls and merry-go-rounds, shopping centres, exotic restaurants, and nightclubs. A long chain of high rise hotels and apartment blocks faces the beach.
Durban is South Africa’s most culturally diverse city, drawing on a strong European influence, Indian immigration, and the fact that it is the centre of the Zulu heartland. The multicultural atmosphere can be experienced especially at the Victoria Street Market. Durban is currently building a major beachfront casino and a new waterfront and aquarium.
When Vasco da Gama anchored in Durham's bay in 1497, he called it Rio de Natal (Christmas River) in the mistaken belief that it was a lagoon at the mouth of a river. It was later changed to Port Natal. Since then many sailors and merchants steered for the bay, but settlement only took hold in 1823 when a group of British merchants from the Cape went ashore and liked it so much that they returned the next year. In 1835, the place was renamed Durban after the Cape Governor Sir Benjamin D’Urban.
After 1860 Indians came to Natal to work in sugar production, and in 1896 a railway linked the sugar growing areas to the port of Durban. Today almost a million Indians live in this area, the largest group outside of India and Pakistan.