In 1884 Namibia was colonized by the Germans and after the first world war it was administered by South Africa. The atrocities committed under apartheid in South Africa were also committed here. In March of 1990, they gained their independence from South Africa and the Republic of Namibia was born.
The capital city of Windhoek is located in the central highlands of the country. It sits at 1,700 m (5,600 ft) above sea level and is surrounded by mountains – the Eros Mountains to the north-east, the Auas Mountains to the south-east and to the west the Khomas Hochland.
In Dutch/Afrikaans the word “hoek” means corner or angle, so the name Windhoek translates to “windy corner” and it lives up to its name. There was always a wind during my time there, especially from the rooftop bar and pool of the Hilton Windhoek. It was beautifully scenic at any time of day.
I had a few days in Windhoek, most of which were spent recovering from the trip and relaxing. Luckily for me, I was able to get an upgrade to a room with an incredible terrace. It was the perfect place to kick back, relax and play with the camera.
The Alte Feste (Old Fortress in English) sits on the highest land in Windhoek. It was built by the Germans from 1890-1915 to serve as headquarters for the German military and subsequently the South African army. For a time it was the home of the National Museum of Namibia but it now closed to the public and in disrepair. In front of the Alte Feste sits the Genocide Memorial. The scene on the front of the statue depicts the hardship inflicted by the German troops during the 1904-1907 war and standing on the rendering of a typical Namibian residence are a man and women with broken chains, depicting freedom.
Just next door to the Alte Feste, on the site that is now home to the Independence Museum, sat a statue that honoured the German soldiers and civilians that died in the 1904-1907 war and. It was also symbol of the German victory, and although German rule in Namibia didn’t last long and the statue was highly controversial, it remained in place until 2009 when the construction of the museum began. In 2010 it was placed in front of the Alte Feste and in 2013, due to continuing controversy, it was moved to the interior courtyard of the Alte Feste and the Genocide Memorial was erected in its place.
The Independence Memorial Museum, which was designed and built by a North Korean firm, was opened in 2014, on the 24th anniversary of Namibia’s independence. It is a strange looking building, referred to by the locals as the coffee maker.
In front of the museum stands a statue of Sam Nujoma, the first president of Namibia who served 3 terms (the maxiumum allowed under their constitution) from 1990-2005.
The museum is on 3 of the 5 floors of the building. The 1st floor is dedicated to the Colonial period and depicts the repression and celebrates the early resistance leaders, the 2nd floor deals with the period of South African rule and the 3rd floor is about the road to independence. The 4th floor houses a restaurant with beautiful views of the city and the only place you can currently see the statue “buried” inside the Alte Feste.
Next door to the museum is Christuskirche, a historic landmark in the city. Built from materials imported from Germany, local sandstone, and Italian marble this Lutheran church was opened in 1907.
In 1912, Windhoek city council created a neighbourhood just for the Black residents. All Black residents of the city were moved to this “Main Location”, which was subsequently subdivided by ethnic group. Then, in the late 50’s, as part of the Apartheid regime, the Windhoek city council and the governing South African administration decided to move these people 8km to the north of the city. Protests erupted and 11 were killed and 44 wounded in the December 10, 1959 uprising. By 1968 the “Main Location” (or “old location” as it is sometimes known) was home to the whites.
The displaced called their new location Katutura -which translates to “the place where people do not want to live” in the Herero language. No longer allowed to own property, the residents had to pay rent to the city and pay for public transportation to get to work. They were also subject to a nightly curfew, meant to ensure that none of them remained in the city centre at night.
No trip to Windhoek would be complete without a trip to Katutura. You need to see the lingering effects of apartheid to understand the city and its people. While it’s now a bustling community, as you drive towards it you can see the change in the living conditions. Closer to the city centre, people live in individual homes with fences. As you get further out, you see small houses surrounded by shacks. In this case, the fortunate home owner lets friends & family erect a shack on their and tap into their power. In Katutura there are no houses, just shacks, and no perfectly manicured lawns, just sand, lots of sand.
And as far as businesses go? Mainly barber shops, bars and carwashes.
My tour of Katutura included a stop at a local market. While it sold the usual produce and grains, it also sold meat, a lot of meat.
This market is also know for its Kapana, thinly sliced meat cooked on a grill over an open fire, that is sold while it is cooking. It is noisy, all the vendors wanting you to purchase from them, and prices are negotiable.
Add in some pap (stiff porridge made from mahangu flour or maize meal and water), some tomato & onion salsa and some spice mix (chili powder & salt I think?) and you have yourself a very inexpensive snack.
There are 2 meteorites known to have crashed in Namibia, near Gibeon and Grootfontein. 33 pieces of the Gibeon meteorite were brought to Windhoek between 1911 and 1913. While the fragments were in storage, 2 pieces were stolen. In 1975 an installation was erected in downtown Windhoek displaying the remaining fragments with empty pillars for the missing ones. Since then 2 more pieces have been stolen, leaving only 29.
No day would be complete in Africa without a sundowner. When combined with a beautiful sunset, there is no better way to end a day…