Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, was established as a town in the mid 1800s by Nama settlers from South Africa. The area was originally known as /Ai//Gams (the / indicating one of the clicks of the Nama language) for the numerous hot springs. Today, Windhoek bears the influence of its erstwhile South African and German colonisers and has a distinctly continental feel, complete with geraniums on the balconies. Wrapped around low hills, under a hot desert sun, the town is attractive, well-kept and surprisingly cosmopolitan. It is pleasant to walk around the main shopping areas where sidewalk cafes and restaurants are juxtaposed with vendors selling curios.
In contrast to many other African countries (except South Africa) is the range of distinctive people that walk the streets of Windhoek. The Herero women in their weighty Dutch-influenced skirts and floral print head-dresses are incongruous next to the tall, statuesque Himba in full ochred splendour, or the diminutive San. Namibia is also home to distinctive groups of mixed race peoples – the Basters. The German and Afrikaans influence remains very evident here and while English is widely spoken, it is seldom the first choice.
Windhoek is a pleasantly hassle-free city and a nice place to spend a day or two either end of a safari. There are some lovely places to stay and it is worthwhile sampling the good food (game being a speciality) and interesting crafty markets and shops.