|Country Information & Lifestyle|
The Smoke That Thunders
Zambia is a landlocked country in south-central Africa about one-tenth larger than Texas and is surrounded by Angola, Zaire, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. The country is mostly a plateau that rises to 8,000 ft (2,434 m) in the east and about one fifth of the population lives on the Copper-belt to the north of the capital, but the biggest concentration of people is in the capital, Lusaka with an estimated population of over 2 million.
Zambia's contemporary culture is a blend of values, norms, material and spiritual traditions of more than 70 ethnically diverse people. Most of the tribes of Zambia moved into the area in a series of migratory waves a few centuries ago and they grew in numbers, many travelling in search of establishing new kingdoms, farming land and pastures. Despite the very definite influence of western standards many of the rural inhabitants have retained their indigenous and traditional customs and value.
After independence in 1964 the government recognised the role culture was to play in the overall development of a new nation and began to explore the question of a National identity and institutions to protect and promote Zambia's culture were created including the National Heritage Conservation Commission.
Early European prospectors were shocked at the extent of tribal diggings found on the Copper-belt and the Katanga pedicle. Even before the Lunda and Mwata Kazembe Empires of the last century copper was in circulation in the form of ingots or crosses and used as currency in central African trade.
The principle urban centres, Lusaka, Livingstone and the towns on the Copper-belt are where most of the rural people head when they make the decision to leave their villages. The impact on the cities has been immense, a ring of shanty towns around the peripheries, with no electricity or adequate sanitation increases both disease and crime, but the shanties are filled with a people who have made a fine art out of surviving with very little. Home industries spring up everywhere from tailors, cobblers, vegetable sellers, money exchangers, to hundreds of walking salesmen selling anything from frying pans, electric plugs and batteries to fruit, vegetables and nuts.
The town of Livingstone named after the famous Victorian missionary explorer Dr. David Livingstone was established in 1905 and as a major European settlement, the town was made the capital of Northern Rhodesia in 1911. As the capital it enjoyed excellent facilities far superior to anything in the country, as can be seen from the surviving Edwardian colonial buildings that line the city's main road, and even had the distinction of having the country's first newspaper.
The capital was moved to Lusaka in 1935 and the bustling city has become a quiet town, a little neglected but still retaining a special charm. The proximity to the Zambezi River and the spectacular Victoria Falls has led it to become a base for travellers from all over the world wanting to explore this Seventh wonder of the World.
The capital, Lusaka, is caught between colonial beginnings, years of socialist independence and now democracy and is close to the centre of Zambia between eastern and western bulges and there are air links to most of the major tourist destinations in Zambia from Lusaka international airport.
Lusaka is the glittering capital which still persuades rural Zambians to take the bus there in search of jobs and dreams and is a sprawling, unplanned metropolis with many multi-storey buildings, high-walled suburbs and busy shanty towns. The city lies at the junction of the main highways to the north, east, south and west at an altitude of 1,300 m above sea level. Lusaka is as much a part of "the real Africa" as the rich national parks and stunning scenery with the markets being a hive of activity with thousands of stalls selling everything imaginable.
Old colonial architecture is seen at the North Western Hotel, St.Andrews Anglican Church and Coillard Memorial Church, all built in the first decade of the century. Old buildings are being refurbished and the city's parks transformed and you can dance the night away to the sounds of rhumba, kwela, techno or good old rock'n roll. Cruise on the wide upper Zambezi or go to the boat club where you will find a two deck cruiser called the African Queen. The most appealing factor to those who have made Lusaka their home is the superb climate.
Warm, sunny summers, interspersed with cooling thunderstorms and mild winters with loads of sunshine. It can get very hot between October and March if there is no rain and summer temperatures range from 20 degrees to 32 degrees C with winter temperatures from 10 degrees to about 26 degrees.
Ndola, lying some 320 kilometres north of Lusaka, is an important commercial centre in Zambia and is the gateway to the mineral producing region of the country. Like Lusaka, the development of Ndola has been rapid and extensive. There are many manufacturing industries here, including a major copper refinery.
Although copper is still Zambia's largest foreign exchange earner and the mainstay of the national economy, the city of Ndola has established itself as a commercial and light industrial centre of considerable importance, as well as being the junction and distribution centre for the Copper-belt complex. If you have time visit the Copper-belt Museum in Buteko Ave where there are many interesting samples of the minerals found here as well as cultural arts, crafts and copper items.
Described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800's as Mosi-oa-Tunya - The Smoke that Thunders and in more modern terms as ‘the greatest known curtain of falling waters, Victoria Falls are a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor who is prepared to brave the tremendous spray with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls. One special vantage point is across the Knife edge bridge, where visitors can have the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the Main Falls as well as the Boiling Pot where the river turns and heads down the Batoka Gorge.
Lake Chilengwa lying about sixteen kilometres southeast of Ndola is one of two sunken lakes found on the Copperbelt, the other is the 100 meter deep Lake Kashiba, both were formed by the collapse of surface rock into the underlying limestone. Lake Chilengwa is right on the Zairean border and is considered a security risk and armed policemen found at the roadblock at Chiwala school will accompany any visitors to the lake where there are facilities for camping, safe swimming and good bird watching. One of the attractions in Ndola is the Zambia International Trade Fair held every July.
Sixty four kilometres west of Ndola is Kitwe, the second largest city in Zambia, the hub of the Copper-belt and owes its existence to the copper mining industry. Kitwe is largely undeveloped as a tourist town due to the focus on mining and industry but is blessed with beautiful scenery and has two big rivers within its boundaries. Mindolo Dam is about seven kilometres to the southwest of the city and has a boating club, swimming pool and bar.
On the way is the market place where there is Zambian arts and crafts and a variety of copper items. Makwera Fall and lake is about 9 kilometres off the Kitwe-Ndola dual carriageway and is a centre for fish farming. The falls are small but quite picturesque as they tumble from a small river over a wider rocky outcrop before settling in a shimmering pool on the rock basement.
Chingola is the most picturesque of the Copper-belt towns with a profusion of trees and flowers. The higher rainfall that this part of the country gets is very evident in the greenery throughout the suburbs. Chingola is home to the biggest open-cast mine in Africa and it is possible to visit the open cast mine as long as you get a permit from the mine office.
A must if you're this far north is a visit to Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage which is on the headwaters of the Kafue River, sixty kilometres west of Chingola. Aside from Chimpanzees, Chimfunshi does have a host of other animals and is an internationally recognised sanctuary and rehabilitation centre and in fact it is the only successful centre of its kind in the world. Chimfunshi is now home to over fifty chimpanzees and today they are an endangered species. If you're in this remote part of north western Zambia, it is well worth a visit.
Luanshya, to the left of Ndola is the site of the oldest copper mine in Zambia and is a good stopover on the way to the copper-belt or for a relaxing weekend. William Collier discovered copper here in 1902 while hunting a roan antelope.
Many traditional instruments are still played throughout the country, the most common is the drum and drumming plays an important part of rituals, ceremonies, celebrations and community communication. Likewise dance is an important part of musical expression among Africans and along with the ideas they express, serve as reflectors of life and thought over the centuries. In big towns night clubs and shebeens belt out the sound of Kwela, rumba and other music.
Zambia's diverse cultures bring with them a wide variety of traditional skills. Crafts can be found in great variety if not in abundance and among them is some of the finest basketry in Africa. Craft work is often done seasonally to supplement the incomes of many families and it was originally intended for barter and made according to the needs of other villagers. To many, especially the subsistence farmers, craft work is their only means of earning cash, but in the more populated areas traditionally made pots and baskets are being replaced with commercially manufactured items and a large part of the new generation are losing these traditional skills.
Fortunately there are organisations which aim to stimulate the production of quality craft work using raw materials such as bamboo, liana vines, roots, reeds, grasses, rushes, bark and sisal decorated with symbolic designs using traditional dyes made from different coloured soils, roots, barks and leaves. The variety of uses for basketry is wide; carrying and storage, fishing traps, beer strainers, flour sieves, sleeping and eating mats and a variety of tableware. The Lozi and Mbunda people in the Western Province are particularly skilled in this field.
Traditional healers play an important role in health care and almost every village will have a knowledgeable person who takes care of the ill with herbal and plant remedies. Different tribes have differing village styles, some build their houses from mud and thatch, others burn bricks and build square houses which they paint with individual pattern. Although life is hard in these remote villages, usually long distances must be walked to fetch water and wood for fuel, they are by no means unhappy.
Most villages are now dominated by women and daily chores are done in groups and often become social occasions. Everyone contributes to weddings and funerals otherwise they would not be affordable, there are no invitations in the village, everyone is welcome to join.
"Lobola" the bride price is still widely practised and is a token of appreciation to the parents of the girl. In most tribes the bride is taken to the mana's village the evening before the wedding. Large quantities of food are prepared and home made beer is brewed to celebrate the marriage. The whole village attends and much singing, dancing and drumming takes place, usually over two or three days. Afterwards the elders council the bridge and groom on the preservation of marriage. The bride is not supposed to cook until after the in-laws introduce her to the pots and fires.
Funerals are also big occasions in the villages, everyone clubs together to help pay the expenses and grief is shown through wailing, singing and dancing and becomes quite an emotional affair. During the mourning period women and men separate, the men staying outside and the women in the house of the deceased. After long speeches about the departed friend and thanks for the donations the whole village walks to the place of burial to pay their last respects.
Zambia has a number of wildlife sanctuaries and the greatest surely has to be South Luangwa which hosts a great variety of wildlife, birds and vegetation. The now famous walking safari originated in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first hand. The changing seasons add to the Park's richness ranging from dry, bare bush-veld in the winter to a lush green wonderland in the summer months.
The dams are bursting with hippos, crowned cranes, grazing antelope of which the park has 14 different species, and scurrying baboons, whilst further on the plains you're bound to see the elephant herds reaching up to 70 in number. Buffalo are abundant and spread throughout the valley and the hippopotamus is one animal you won't miss.
As you cross over the bridge into the park there are usually between 30 and 70 hippos lounging in the river below and most of the dambos and lagoons will reveal many. There is estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometre of the Luangwa River!
Zebra can be seen running in small herds of about a dozen and perhaps the most beautiful of the antelope species is the Kudu. Hyenas are fairly common throughout the valley and South Luangwa has a good population of leopards and lions are plentiful. The river has a high number of crocodiles and night drives are fascinating when there is a good chance of seeing leopards and nocturnal animals.
Zambia - what an amazing country. From pristine wilderness, changing landscapes, diverse wildlife and spectacular sunsets, to the warm Zambian welcome of its friendly people, Zambia is beckoning you.