Land of contrasts
Namibia is a country of distant horizons, solitude, bleak, yet beautiful and attractive deserts and craggy mountain-ridges. Visitors are grabbed by its natural beauty, in spite of its unkind and sometimes rough climate and the lack of rain, only the hardiest vegetation is able to survive here. Yet a lot of fields seem to be surprisingly rich. Although the area of the country is big, it’s rarely populated and the inhabitants are rather versatile. There are twelve ethnical groups who have kept their traditions and language. At one time this area used to be the most valuable colony of the Imperial Germany, which later South-Africa managed to invade. However, after many vicissitudes and prolonged guerrilla wars, in 1990, Namibia fought for its independence and became an independent state. It was the first country in the world to include environmental protection in its constitution.
Namibia lies on the western coast of the southern corner of Africa. In the north, it is divided from Angola and Zambia by the River Kuene and the Okavango. In the west, it is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean along 1500 kilometres. In the south, it borders the Republic of South Africa. The geographical spine of the country is the inner highland which is surrounded by the Kalahari, the most ancient desert in the world, and the Namib Desert in the west. As opposed to a general belief, the desert is not at all as monotonous as it is thought to be. The Namib Desert is the most beautiful desert in the world where all visitors are enchanted by the sudden rising of the high ridged red dunes. The Namib Naukluft National Park is not only famous for the highest dunes in the world but also because of its very rare plants. One of the most peculiar plants in the world, the Welwitschia Mirabilis can only be found in some parts of the Namib Desert. Welwitschia has a fascinating past: it probably derives from a 300 million-yar-old plant which was the ancestor of today’s conifers. It usually lives in narrow strips of land, fifty kilometres from the coast. Some of the plants live to be a thousand years old so each and every plant is protected.
The Kalahari Desert stretches from South Africa to Namibia and Botswana. It’s a world of sparse bushes, thorny acacia, lions and elephants. In effect it is a boundary area between the desert and the woody-bushy savannahs.
Although Kalahari Desert does not have huge sand dunes, dreadful torrid conditions are still one of its characteristics in the summer months of December, January and February. There are some places where there are only a few millimetres of rain annually. In the south, huge sand dunes are created by the wind, sand dunes which are dis-sected by temporary rivers, stretching as far as the ocean. The gold-en, endless sandy deserts are interspersed by salt lakes and moors and criss-crossed by underground rivers with green grass on the sur-face above them. The longest river of the southern plateau of Namib-ia is the 800-km serpiginous Frish River which cut a 25 km wide valley at some places in the ancient landscape. The Frish River Canyon can only be compared to the Grand Canyon in the world. In Africa, its dimensions are only outweighed by the Blue Nile – flowing from the Ethiopian high ground. The flora and fauna of the country are also typical of its geological and climatic features. In the desert only the hardiest lichens and dwarf shrubs are able to survive, whereas on the plateaus there are mainly acacias. The rainier areas are populated by the plants of savannahs, including red ebony trees and tik trees. The fauna of Namibia is also very versatile. Big games and unique insects all survived here, thanks to the ancient desert. The country with one of the most beautiful natural endowments of the World has twenty national parks among which Etosha National Park is the largest – over 22 000 square kilometres – and it is the third largest national park in the world. This ancient place, which is a big, dried-out white basin today, was a lake millions of years ago where the inhabitants used to fish. Nowadays, it only fills with water in the rainy season. Swakopmund is the largest and the most popular holiday resort in Namibia – and it is also the home of many German settlers. Although occasionally the east wind rises and whips the coasts with sand it doesn’t deter holiday-makers from swimming in the refreshing water. The city is popular among surfers, fishermen and those who enjoy hunting sharks, paragliding and hot-air ballooning. It is a real paradise for whale riders and anglers. Quadbike fans can race among the sand dunes in the desert as much as they like. Windhoek, the capital, is located almost in the geographical centre of the country. Business life and public administration are both concentrated here. There is a remarkable German influence on the capital, especially on architecture and social events. The majority of the people speak German and Afrikaans in restaurants, even though the official language is English. Walking in the streets of Windhoek, you can discover a dozen of different local cultures.
The streets of the city show a very colourful picture with all the different nationalities: the Ovambo, the Herero, the Dama and the Bushman – and the air is filled by the confounded languages of Babel. The city is surrounded by hills which give a protection even against the strongest winds coming from the east. Considering the past decades, Namibia is the most successful country in Africa.