The word "Kalahari" means two things to most Joburgers: 1) A massive desert to the northwest and 2) A massive online shopping site. But there is another South African Kalahari that you need to know about, especially if you like to read: Kalahari Books.
Second-hand bookshops are ubiquitous in Joburg but nothing can prepare you for your first visit to Kalahari Books, hidden in a first-floor warehouse above an automotive garage in Orange Grove. Light filters through the dusty windows, illuminating the stacks and shelves of books just so. Classical music plays softly. The air is musty with the smell of old books but it's somehow fresh at the same time.
Richard Welch, Kalahari's creator, is the quintessential bookshop owner - bespectacled with wild, white hair. When you arrive, he will likely offer you a cup of coffee and a seat in a weathered wingchair. You'll be surrounded, not smothered, by books.
Kalahari is, in a word, great. It has all the quirkiness and charm of a second-hand bookshop, but none of the grimy chaos and claustrophobia that plagues many similar establishments.
Richard founded Kalahari Books about three decades ago, long before used books were fashionable in Joburg and long before Kalahari.com - in fact long before the internet - ever existed. He says the name came to him in a dream. (If you want to laugh, ask Richard to tell you the story of his legal trademark battle with Kalahari.com).
Richard knows as much as, or more than, anyone else in this city about rare and used books. If you're looking for something specific, Richard can probably find it for you. Or you can just enjoy browsing the endless rows of literary wonder. Even the staunchest e-book enthusiast will struggle to leave empty-handed.
Don't be put off by Kalahari's obscure location, just off Louis Botha Avenue in a decisively non-literary section of town. Pull off Louis Botha onto Dunnotar Street and park in the lot next to a medical supply company on your immediate right. Then follow the series of hand-painted signs - like breadcrumbs - pointing you around the building toward Kalahari. A quirky book bonanza awaits you.
Where? 2 Dunnotar Street, Orange Grove, Johannesbur
When? Open: Tuesday to Saturday: 09:30 - 16:30
Tel: 082 678 8619
by Heather Mason