Windhoek is the capital and largest city in Namibia. It is located at the center of a large country with a small population of around 2.2 million. Most people are not originally from Windhoek, many come from villages in the north. The largest tribal group are the Ovambo people. Many of the high rises in city were built after independence in 1990. The yellow building above with the step-like structure is a Hilton, the only five-star hotel in Windhoek. The large gray structure in the foreground is the central bank of Namibia. The photo is taken from the viewing deck located on the fourth floor of the Museum of Liberation pictured below. My guide, who is a located university student studying tourism, described Windhoek as a “butt hole” city, a circle cut out of the surrounding hills. The name means “windy corner” and yes, it is indeed a very windy city. There are not too many sights to see, but it has a chill and up-and-coming vibe without feeling as snobby as Cape Town.
A most interesting factoid is that the Museum of Liberation and statue of Namibia’s highly regarded first president was built by North Korea. After I learned that, I could see the stylistic elements of communist architecture; somewhat similar to the memorials that I saw in Kyiv and statues of Chairman Mao at Tiananmen in Beijing. The structures are quite new: commissioned in 2012 and finished in 2014. I believe the substance of the museum inside remains a work in progress. After a quick tour, the museum seems to be largely devoid of any written narrative or information explaining the sequence of events. The bit of writing that exists are merely placards under a few of the photographs explaining tersely, the location and depiction. There are also few items displayed. Much of the museum relies on large, sensational murals and paintings portraying events such as the Cassinga Massacre during Apartheid when Namibia was a colony of South Africa. Some of the murals of generic man and woman fighters holding rifles and looking skywards with determination and optimism reminded me of paintings of red guards and other communist revolutionaries of China. I wonder how much input North Korea had regarding the substance of the museum. Namibia received support from communist countries during its liberation struggle, including from Cuba and North Korea. The main street right outside of the museum is named “Fidel Castro Street.”
Near the Museum of Liberation is the Christ Church, one of the most iconic landmarks of Windhoek. It is a Lutheran Church built during German occupation. Below is a photo of the stained glass windows above the altar. I went to a service this morning. Service is conducted in German. The Church was about a quarter to a third filled and with mostly elderly folks. I wonder if they were born here during German colonial times and have stayed in Namibia. Of course I couldn’t understand anything, but service seemed fairly standard and orderly. Two of the churchgoers also went up to give short sermons. Later on, I walked past a Methodist Church as people were coming out and it was a lot more lively. The choir congregated at the exit/entrance, singing and greeting people as they were leaving. This Church was all African, while Lutheran Church had predominantly white churchgoers. I am thinking about going to a church service in Zambia. Church may be a good place to meet people and become more embedded into the local community.