Namibia is one of the 54 independent states of the African continent. Situated in Southern Africa, it borders North with Angola and Zambia, East with Botswana and South with South Africa while on the Western side, it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.
With a population counting only 2.1 million people and a land extension three times bigger than that of the United Kingdom, Namibia is the less populated nation in the world, second only to Mongolia, with a population density of just 2.5 people per square mile. The vast majority of its lands are in fact made up of the arid expanses of the Kalahari and Namib deserts, where indeed the name Namibia comes from.
Namibia’s vast spaces are composed of many cultural and environmental dimensions: a mosaic of languages, ethnic groups and local tribes that populate deserts, canyons, greenery plateaux, orange rocky and sandy landscapes, features which the government decided to safeguard by including a specific article in the country’s constitution that protects 14% of the national territory. It is this very amazing palette of contrasts and diversities that make tourists fall in love with Namibia. In fact, this is Africa’s most requested destination for holiday-makers from all over the world. Every year over one million travellers visit this country, actually contributing for the 14.5% of its GDP and providing jobs for the 18.2% of the overall employment.
Namibia is a relatively young country obtaining its independence in March the 21st 1990 peacefully separating itself from South Africa which was its administration since 1915. Thus, the independence of Namibia ended a period of occupation starting in 1880 as a colony of the German Empire. The German influence has by now become part of the Namibian culture, as clearly noticeable in the town of Lüderitz.
Founded in 1883 and largely expanded in the first years of the 20th century during the diamond rush, the town is sandwiched between the barren Namib Desert and the windswept South Atlantic coast, one of the least hospitable part of the Continent. Lüderitz is characterized by the typical German art nouveau and colonial architecture of the 20th century, recalling small Bavarian villages with their churches, bakeries and cafes, actually bringing a surrealistic and European look in the hearth of Africa. Unlike its cousin German villages, Lüderitz seems stuck in a time-warp because of its partial isolation from the rest of the country due to the not easily accessible position what adds a charm and magic to the already amazing African scenario.
On the other hand, there is Windhoek. With just 300.000 citizens, it is the capital of Namibia and the largest city of the country. Visited by more than half of the tourist stream that every year peacefully invade Namibia, Windhoek is the most visited town of the country. The city is today in continuous expansion and development: the social, economic, political, and cultural centre of the Namibia with a growing population.
Built under the German occupation and developed during the 1950s South African apartheid policies, Windhoek is today characterised by a mix of people coming from different cultures living together in harmony and peace. The influence of the German colonisers is still very much present in language, architecture and restaurants, where the cuisine lovers can savour traditional German dishes, bread and beer, which are part of the annual Namibian Oktoberfest. During the day, a walk in the city centre reveals the European café culture feel, relaxed and eclectic, surrounded by bustling shops and market stalls, contributing to the make of Windhoek just another of the many cosmopolitan towns in Africa.
Last but not least, as already been mentioned, Namibia is a country with beautiful landscapes and endless horizons. The Etosha National Park is one of the world’s biggest wildlife cradle, which during the rainy season turns from a flat and saline desert to an immense shallow lagoon flooded by flamingos and pelicans while the surrounding grasslands provide shelter to hundreds of animal species. At the same time, in Southern Namibia, the red dunes of sand rise, some even more than 300 metres high, from the Tsauchab River valley, give a breathtaking sight of the entire Sossusvlei ephemeral pan.
And then the list goes on with the Fish River Canyon National Park, the Waterberg National Park, the red rocks of the Matterhorn of Africa, and more places that will end up infecting you with the so called Mal d’Afrique: the nostalgia for Africa. It is not easy to describe in few words a country like this but for sure, Namibia is a puzzle of colours and emotions able to make its mark in your heart and memories, that will make you come back again.