Thursday, October 15, 2009
Swakopmund is an odd place - it was the harbour for the short-lived colony catchily known as German South West Africa, for a mere thirty years - and was then British and then South African for the next seventy-five years, until it became Namibian in 1990. What's odd is that it still looks and feels very German - the architecture is "colonial German" (including some distinctly Alpine-looking chalets), and German is one of the main languages spoken, along with Afrikaans - English (the official language of Namibia) runs a distant third. The population is less than thirty thousand most of the time, with a massive influx of tourists in December - summer holidays for rich Namibians and South Africans. What do the permanent residents live on? Tourism mostly, and just down the road happens to be one of the largest uranium mines in the world - which offers guided tours should you wish.
The name of the town means "mouth of the Swakop", the Swakop river being an occasional source of water - Swakop comes from an indigenous name for the river and apparently means "opening for excrement", which was probably not the brand image that the early European settlers were aiming for - or perhaps they just didn't imagine a future tourist trade at the time. However, Swakop's image was given a boost recently with the birth of a new Namibian citizen, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. I went past the hospital and have to say that a visit from Brad and Angelina must have been one of the most incongruous things ever seen in this already very unusual place.
Posted by Marsian at 9:40 AM