Although the smallest of the nine provices, Gauteng (Sotho word for the Place of Gold) is the powerhouse of South Africa and the heart of its commercial business and industrial sectors. It generates nearly half the country's GDP.

Gauteng's main cities are Johannesburg, the largest city in southern Africa; Pretoria, the administrative capital; and Soweto.

The province blends cultures and colours and first- and third-world traditions into a spirited mix that is flavoured by many foreign influences.

Gauteng's primary attraction is business opportunity, but there is more to this province. There is a wealth of culture to be mined in the museums, galleries, art routes and battlefields.

Most overseas visitors enter South Africa via Johannesburg International Airport.

Johannesburg, also nicknamed Egoli (place of gold), is the capital of the province and is a city of contrasts. Mine dumps and headgear stand proudly as symbols of its rich past, while modern architecture rubs shoulders with examples of 19th century engineering prowess. Gleaming skyscrapers contrast with Indian bazaars and African 'muti' (medicine) shops, where traditional healers dispense advice and traditional medicine.

The busy streets ring out with the call of fruit sellers and street vendors. An exciting blend of ethnic and Western art and cultural activities is reflected in theatres and open-air arenas throughout the city.

South of Johannesburg is Soweto, a city developed as a township for black people under the apartheid system. Most of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto. Soweto is estimated to be inhabited by over two million people with homes ranging from extravagant mansions to makeshift shacks. Soweto is a city of enterprise and cultural interaction. It is a popular tourist destination with sites such as Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was drawn up, the home of former President Nelson Mandela, the Hector Petersen Memorial site, restaurants and shopping malls. It boasts one of the largest hospitals on the continent and the only African-owned private clinic.

Some 50 km north of Johannesburg lies Pretoria.

As administrative capital of the Republic, the city is dominated by government services and the diplomatic corps of foreign representatives in South Africa.

Pretoria is renowned for its colourful gardens, shrubs and trees, partcularly beautiful in spring when the 50 000 jacarandas envelop the avenues in mauve. The city developed at a more sedate pace than Johannesburg, and the town planners had the foresight to include an abundance of open spaces. Pretoria has more than 100 parks, including bird sanctuaries and nature reserves.

An air of history pervades much of central Pretoria, especially Church Square, around which the city has grown. Many buildings of historical and architectural importance have been retained or restored to their former splendour.

North of Pretoria is the industrial area of Rosslyn and the township of Soshanguve. To the east is Cullinan, known for its diamonds.

Other important Gauteng towns include Krugersdorp and Roodepoort on the West Rand, and Germiston, Springs, Boksburg, Benoni, Brakpan and Kempton Park on the East Rand. The hominid sites at Swartkrans, Sterkfontein and Kromdraai (also known as the Cradle of Humankind) are World Heritage Sites.

Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging in the south of the province are major industrial centres, while Heidelberg, Nigel and Bronkhorstspruit to the east are important agricultural areas.

Although the province is highly urbanised and industrialised, it contains wetlands of international importance, such as Blesbokspruit near Springs.