"And this dress will cost you triple to launder"
I love countries where people wear traditional dress - be in Bavaria or Namibia - not just to entertain the tourists, but just because it's what they choose to wear!
Namibian women's clothing is a wonder to behold, with each tribe having its own distinct dress code. And none are more striking than the flamboyant, colourful dresses of the Herero women of eastern Namibia, which make you wonder whether you've been transported back in time by a century.
I suppose that Herero dresses have their origins in 'missionary wear', where the prudish Lutheran missionaries of the 19th centuries encouraged the 'natives' to cover themselves modestly. You can certainly see the influence of Victorian-era fashion in the tightly fitted, high necked, long sleeved bodices, billowing out into full skirts underpinned by an improbable number of petticoats, and it's hard to conceive of a more impractical style of clothing for the punishingly hot, dusty Hereroland climate! And as to the traditional headgear, which looks like an elongated cloth roll perched on top of the head - well the best explanation I've read is that is pays homage to the horns of the cattle that the Herero prize so greatly.
My first experience of Herero dresses came when I first travelled to Namibia to take up a short term contract in early 1993. I arrived late in the afternoon, and was whisked straight to a rather downmarket hotel close to the railway station. I had some time to kill before meeting up with my new employer, but hadn't had time to buy any reading material, so I was left with the option of reading the Gideon bible from one top drawer of the desk, or the laundry list from the other.
Lord have mercy on my soul, for I confess that I chose the laundry list ... and was stunned to see a separate line item for laundering a 'Herero dress' that was three times the cost of any other item on this list. At this point, I was a cultural novice, and it wasn't until I saw a Herero woman in her full tribal regalia the next day that I realised why!
Apologies that I have no pictures of these dresses as I am uncomfortable photographing people without their permission. In the meantime, this image from Wikiphotos will give you the general idea ...
EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS
NAMIBIA POLICE EMERGENCY
CITY OF WINDHOEK FIRE BRIGADE
MediClinic Hospital in Windhoek 061-222687
Roman Catholic Hospital: 061-2702911
International SOS (private ambulance and medical evacuation)
--112 from a local cell phone
Windhoek Municipal Emergency Services: 061-290-2702.
YOU CAN SAVE THESE NUMBERS ON YOUR VT 'CUSTOM TRAVEL GUIDE' AND TAKE THEM WITH YOU!
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The Himbas are an ethnic nomadic tribe living in the Kunene region in northern Namibia. However there are also some Himbas in Windhoek doeing business, where they sell their handycraft in the markets. They still wear their traditional clothes of goat skin, and the women are topless at the markets. They are beautiful people.
My approach towards them with my videocamera was ignorant and offensive. I should have asked first and not treated them as alians. They were angry, and I deleted the scenes with them sitting topless. I can see my mistake, and am sorry. My advice is to hide your camera and ask for permission first.
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Choice of street names
A walk along Windhoek streets would reveal a curious combination of local heroism, political correctness and historical reminiscences. As most intriguing example street Robert Mugabe should be mentioned. This strongman of the ex Southern Rhodesia (named after another strongman) used to be a good dictator to whom the jewel of Africa was eventually handed over to take care of. And yes indeed he did for approximately 25 years until one morning or afternoon something irrevocable happened and he turned into a monster. Well the Windhoek reality does not reflect this reality and continues to have Mugabe embellishing the pavement of a street in the heart of the historical part of the city. Another controversial fella has quite the following here. Fidel Castro is the patron of one of the major streets leading all the way up to old German icon such as Christkirhe. As a cherry on top of the icing his brother Raul happened to drive along in a high powered Mercedes there underlining the permanent celebrity status of the family in this distant land.
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ENGLISH IS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
An amazing fact that I did not know until I want inside the National Museum of Namibia, here in Windhoek. Despite its history as a German Colony, the official language of government and the legal system is English. This is enshrined in Article 3 of the Preamble of the Constitution (pictured). People are, of course, allowed to practice any language they wish in Namibia. German and Afrikaans is still widely spoken and more than 20 tribal languages still thrive here.
If you would like to know more about the exciting exhibits at the National Museum of Namibia, please see my ‘Things to Do’ tips on this page.
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KEEP WINDHOEK CLEAN
You will see signs all over Windhoek saying “Keep our city clean”. In many cities of the world you would look around and think ‘too late’. Windhoek is one of the cleanest cities in the world. Please help keep it that way. I never saw any litter or graffiti. It’s a real pleasure to walk around clean streets, sidewalks and parks. Please keep off the grass as well. Windhoek – a very clean city!
The Windhoek Lager is the local beer here of course, you can find it almost anywhere around the country, in restaurants, shops and most important, is camping sites. It is the best as cold beer after a hot day in the desert.
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