Swakopmund Township Tour in Namibia

July 29, 2015 by

City Tours & Sightseeing, Middle East & Africa, Places to Go, Things to Do, Walking Tours

The town of Swakopmund, Namibia was established as the main port for what was once German Southwest Africa in the early 1900s. During colonial times, the 12 native tribes of the area were moved to areas of the city called townships, where many still live today. In order to understand these integral parts of the city and Namibian culture, we decided to take a Swakopmund township tour.

In the DRC township

Townships of  Swakopmund, Namibia.

We set out to get to know the townships of Swakopmund with out local guide Mombo. First, to understand the geography of how the townships were formed, Mombo explained that during colonial rule, the Germans developed a strategy to divide native groups. They gave some larger houses and better land in order to create conflict between the groups; to keep them angry with each other instead of rebelling against the Germans.

The main townships in Swakopmund are Mondesa and the DRC. Mondesa dates back to the colonial times and was the original site where people lived divided. Later the DRC was given to the people as an informal settlement, which has been developed into a community made of simple homes occupied mostly by immigrants from other parts of Namibia or elsewhere in the region.

Touring the DRC township.

Touring the DRC township.

For our first stop on the tour, we dropped in for a visit at a local herbalist’s home from the Nama tribe. She welcomed us and began to explain what she does for work. She travels the region collecting natural remedies, just as her ancestors have done for centuries. Her jars of herbs offers cures for anything from a simple headache all the way to inducing labor. She even had animal droppings she had collected to use as stress relievers. She’s well-known throughout the community, and people from the entire township come for her remedies.

Our guide explaining the medicines of the local herbalist.

Our guide explaining the medicines of the local herbalist.

On our way from the DRC to the formal settlement of the Mondesa township, we stopped to see another side of how the people of Swakopmund live. We stopped at a local restuarant located between the two townships. Cooks take cuts of tenderized beef and put them onto a hot grill. The beef is cut into small bites and bought piece by piece by the people of the townships. For just a few cents you can buy a handful of pieces. They are then rubbed into piles of salt and ground chilies right off the grill. This kind of fast-food restaurant can be found all over the townships, serving up a quick snack.

Namibian fast-food style restaurant.

Namibian fast-food style restaurant.

Our guide then took us to one of his favorite local bars. It was Sunday afternoon, toward the end of the Namibia vs. Zambia soccer match and joined in the support for the home team. The bar was fun spirited and we grabbed a few Windhoek beers, the local favorite. The Namibian team pulled out a victory and after the game finished, sounds of Namibian music and celebration filled the small space.

After the excitement of the victory, we walked next door to taste some authentic Namibian cuisine. The meal was served family style for our small group. The staple of most Namibian dishes centers around the porridge. The millet based porridge is a thick starch that is used more as a utensil than a potato substitute. Forks and knives are not common, so instead our guide showed us how to grab a piece of porridge with our right hand. We made it into a ball to grab the other parts of the meal.

Our authentic Namibian meal.

Our authentic Namibian meal.

The other ceramic bowls were filled with curried wild spinach, cooked beans, and a local specialty: caterpillars. We rolled the millet porridge into balls and dug in. The curried spinach was delicious, with a tasty and slightly spicy sauce. Much to my surprise, the caterpillars were quite tasty too. The bugs were crisp and added a savory saltiness to the porridge when eaten together.

To our surprise, our guide arranged some local entertainment to accompany our meal! We were joined by a music group from the local university to perform a few traditional songs. The group sang and danced for us as we finished our meal.

Musical performance from local university students.

Musical performance from local university students.

By the end of the day, we could see that the sense of community and cultural significance of the township’s were undeniable–and we felt luck to have experienced it first-hand.

Check out more things to do in Namibia!

– Contributed by Hannah Lukaszewicz

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