My next destination was the desert country of Namibia. It took a while to get there. A 4-hour flight from Nairobi. Followed by an annoyingly long transit in Johannesburg. And finally a short flight to Windhoek with Air Namibia after waiting for 7 hours. I came to join an organized tour with Gadventures. But out of curiosity, I decided to be in the city two days prior to the trip.
Windhoek is the capital & largest city in Namibia. Located in a valley between Auasbergen, Khom & Eros. Previously known for its hot springs. Like many other places in Africa, I expected Namibia to be a developing country. I was accompanied by a local who showed me around the city. He was both my guide and driver. Seeing Windhoek for the first time was a pleasant surprise. The place is so modern and clean! Well….that was my first impression until we drove through the Katutura township. Living conditions vary among Namibians. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid resulted an enormous level of socioeconomic inequality. This diverse country has also come a long way since the Apartheid ended. However, racist attitudes still pervade between blacks and whites as well as people of mixed races.
Namibia was colonized by Germany in 1881 until WW1. Obviously one can still experience German culture & influences in many ways. Like for example the streets with German names. There are several restaurants & bakeries with German delicacies as well. The same goes for certain buildings that are still standing after the colonial era. It was not long ago Namibia gained its independence. After the German rule, the country became part of South Africa until 1990. The official language of Namibia is English, although it’s a multilingual country.
One of the main attractions in the city is the famous Christuskirche. The German lutheran church that is featured in many postcards. It has a mixture of neo-gothic and art nouveau.
Independence Memorial Museum
By the end of the tour, I visited the Independence Museum. The building was interesting from an architectural point of view. The exhibition inside gives an overview of Namibia’s history of anti-colonial resistance and it’s struggles towards independence. But all I saw were mostly photographs and some graphic paintings depicting the Cassinga massacre. I believe this place could have been better if they added more detailed description. So I was kind of disappointed. Luckily there was no entrance fee.
Tintenpalast & Parliament Gardens
Afterwards, I went to Tintenpalast. This two-story building was previously the administration of the colonial government. Nowadays it houses the National Assembly. Unfortunately, the Tintenpalast was closed so I ended up walking through the Parliament Gardens instead. The gardens which surrounds the building is also a popular attraction for both locals & tourists. One of the most beautiful and well kept park areas in the city.
Another public recreational area is the Zoo Park which is situated in the Independence Avenue. Somehow the park is a bit more crowded than the Parliament Gardens.
One thing I’ve noticed about the people is how well dress they are. In terms of fashion, everything goes regardless of the heat. Most Namibians opt for western attire. But there are certain people that stood out. The Herero women & Himba tribe in particular. Even in an unbearable hot day, you’ll most likely encounter a Herero woman. They usually wear a long petticoated gown with shawls combined with headdresses. These are typical Victorian style of the 19th century colonists. While Himba, the least westernized tribe, wear leather skirts or thongs. At the same time, their bodies are smeared with ochre.
Windhoek is not a big city. Its population is only 300000. Almost everything is within walking distance so spending a whole day was enough. By early evening, I was back at the hotel for an orientation with our guide before meeting the rest of the group. We all went out for dinner at one of Windhoek’s famous restaurant, Joe’s Beerhouse. That was the place where I had my first zebra steak. How should I describe the taste? It reminded me of whale meat, but has a slight thicker consistency. And to be more specific, the zebra meat is extremely red, chewy, tough & not so tasty at all. It was worth trying for the first time, but was definitely my last.