One of the questions that Namibians most ask to foreigners is: “Is this your first time in Africa?” I normally answer “No, I have been to Morocco, but Morocco is not the real Africa”. After five months living in Windhoek I realise that Namibia is also not the “real Africa”, at least not the real Africa as many people might think. The German influence can be seen in the Namibian cities, names of some streets are still shown in German, but the German influence can also be seen in the architecture of some buildings.
Namibia is the land of the braves who fought for their independence decades ago against the South African domination. Namibia celebrated its 27th anniversary this year. Unfortunately, South Africa also left some seeds from the apartheid in Namibia, most of the white and black people still do not mix in public spaces, but they coexist peaceful in the territory that both call home.
Namibia is the second least densely populated nation, just after Mongolia. You can drive kilometres without seeing a single person, house or car- something we cannot even imagine in Europe. The over two million Namibians predominantly live in the big cities- the capital, Windhoek, and the two coastal cities of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. The North of the country has the biggest concentration of population, as it is less dry than the south.
Located in the centre of the country, Windhoek is Namibia’s biggest city with over 300,000 inhabitants. Where previously a small settlement had existed in close proximity to the hot springs, German troops saw its strategic geographical value. Although clean and well-organised, Windhoek was constructed horizontally with large skyscrapers confined to the city centre, giving it a large surface area.The lack of good public transportation is a problem, but is solved by the several taxis always going around the city.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean coast, Swakopmund is still only four hours from Windhoek making it a convenient weekend getaway for residents of the capital city. Besides it German influences, it was near Swakopmund that the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão became the first European to arrive on these lands. Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are between the sea and the desert, probably the only part of earth that a desert meets the sea, making this one of the highlights of the Namibian tourism industry. The Namib desert is also the oldest desert in Earth.
Game reserves are also very famous in Namibia, everywhere you can find a lodge in the middle of nowhere that will give tourists the opportunity to see wild animals while having a peaceful rest. Ethosa is the Namibian national park with more visits, a must stop when visiting the country. Wild animals running freely in protected areas can be seen as the “real Africa”, but Namibia is more than a game drive.
Indigenous people still live in some parts of Namibia, they are the decedents of the first humans on earth, holders of a great legacy that must be protected as the wild animals. The Fish River Canyon and Sossusvlei are also a must stop, for those who like adventure. The best way to travel in Namibia is renting a car, prices are normally as in Europe, so is better to have a group of friends to share the car and the accommodation, but be aware Namibians drive on the left side and it can be dangerous to drive in Namibia has the traffic accidents happen very often.
Drought is one of the biggest challenges for Namibia, in fives months I probably saw rain in a total of two weeks, and most of the rainy days where just after my arrival in February, when it was Summer still. Seasons in Namibia are different from Europe, for us Winter means rain, for them it means drought, and no Namibia is not always hot, in Winter Windhoek can have temperatures below zero. So pack a jacket if you are going to visit Namibia during their Winter.
Namibia is considered by some the Switzerland of Africa, not because the countries are similar, but because Switzerland is a good example of Europe, as Namibia is a good example of Africa. The stability achieved after its independence, has been able to put the country in leading positions in ratings, when compared with other African countries, but Namibia has its challenges and should face it. The young will play an important role in the country.
You should definitely put Namibia in your travel list and do not miss nothing of this amazing country.