Lusaka is a city whose bustling chaos has a certain charm that is just Zambia.
The tourist passing through the capital may not see any reason to stay, but Lusaka is the product of a country battling to find its way in a new world, caught between colonial beginnings, years of socialist independence and now democracy. It typifies the problems many African countries face as they find their independent footing in world thats surging ahead.
The fascinating thing about Lusaka is its energy. Not perhaps of the same ilk as the Big Apple, but an African energy, propelled by that need to survive.
Lusaka is as much a part of the real Africa as the rich national parks and stunning scenery. Well over 60% of its 2 million inhabitants are unemployed, but there are surprisingly few beggars. Although petty theft occurs, most people try to make an honest living, selling their wares or services and smiling to boot.
The markets are a hive of activity, the thousands of stalls are filled and cleared every day. A myriad of motor spares dealers, restaurants, hairdressers, fishmongers, fruitsellers and rows and rows of salaula – discarded clothing from the West sold to Africa by the bale.
Venture out to a nightclub or roadside shebeen and get in the groove, so to speak, of the local people. Dance the night away to the sounds of rhumba, kwela, techno or good old rock ‘n roll.
But Lusaka is also a city undergoing a facelift. A walk around the city will reveal new shops-including a new market and a multi-million dollar shopping mall under construction; smart fast food outlets; new double carraigeway roads, old buildings being refurbished and the transformation of the city’s parks.
For many, this is the perfect example of what economic liberalisation has done for the country. And viewed from the villages, Lusaka is the glittering capital which still persuades rural Zambians to take the bus there in search of jobs and dreams.
The capital covers an area of over 70km sqare and is one of the fastest-growing cities in central Africa. Its population almost trebled in the immediate post-independence era and continues to grow daily. There has been no influx control and the city is bursting at the seams. Grossly inadequate municipal facilities are hard-pressed to cope with the ever-increasing demand.
It is a sprawling, unplanned metropolis with many multi-storey buildings, high-walled suburbs and busy shanty towns. Fast-growing industrial development has brought together people of many nationalities, making it a bustling centre for economic, political and cultural activities.
The city lies at the junction of the main highways to the north, east, south and west at an altitude of 1 300m above sea level. There are air links to most of the major tourist destinations in Zambia from Lusaka International Airport.
The shops are mainly grouped along the broad double carriageway of Cairo Rd, but the government buildings are about 6km away along Independence Ave.
For maps of the city, try the Zambian National Tourist Board, the craft shop at the Pamodzi Hotel or the Map Centre, Mulungushi House, opposite the US embassy.
There is a local magazine called the Lusaka Lowdown which is a mine of information on what’s happening in town and full of useful adverts for local services and products. Check out the online version.
The most appealing factor to many 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 theres no rain. The average rainfall, between November and April, is about 950mm. Summer temperatures range from 20 degrees to 32 degrees C. Winter temperatures from 10 degrees to about 26 degrees. Humidity is usually below 40%.
Restaurants and Nightlife
Click here for a full list of restaurants including coffee shops, take aways, night clubs, pubs as well as their phone numbers.
Most of the banks and many bureaux de change can be found along Cairo Road.
For groceries and general supplies, the newly opened Manda Hill shopping centre is where it’s all at. This is Lusaka’s first shopping mall and it’s becoming a big hit with an excellent range of shops and boutiques. There’s also a big supermarket in Cairo Rd. There are several suburban shopping centres, not of the mall type, but with a variety of shops that usually supply anything you need, mostly imported from Zimbabwe or South Africa and a little pricey. These are called Kabulonga, Northmead and Woodlands.
If not for shopping, but just for the experience of how the local masses shop, a visit to one of Lusakas markets is a must. Its an interesting experience and well worth a visit, if just for the colourful and lively atmosphere. The Soweto Market is two roads west of Cairo Road, and the other opposite the Tazara building in Independence Ave. A new, smarter, roofed market has just been built along Freedom Way.
Curios and crafts can be found at Zambili in Luanshya Rd. The Book House shop, in the Manda Hills Shopping Center. Zintu Handicrafts are at the Holiday Inn. Moore Pottery on Kabalenga Road has an excellent range of ceramics, and Zintu Za Nyimba at the bottom end of Panganani Road sells a wide range of locally made wooden furniture, batiks, candle holders, lamps shades, hand-dyed cloths and carvings. Definitely worth a visit. Hope House in Luanshya Road is a charitable organisation providing support to Aids victims and sell a range of home-made crafts. Every last Saturday of the month there is an excellent craft market in Kabulonga suburb at the Dutch Reform Church grounds.
For Gemstones and fine jewellery, try Jagoda at the Holiday Inn or the Intercontinental Hotel.
You can buy film and get photographs processed at Phoenix Photographics halfway down Cairo Road. Books can be found at Tower Books at the Castle in Makeni, the Book House SHop at Manda Hills and Mary’s Bookshop on the Leopards Hill Rd.
A word of warning – Lusaka is famous for car thieves, pick-pockets and bag snatchers, but if you have someone who can mind your vehicle and keep a good grip on your bags, its quite safe.
There are several sports clubs in Lusaka which offer facilities for golf, tennis, swimming and squash. For golfers, theres the Lusaka Golf Club, Chilanga Golf Club and Chainama Hills Golf Club. The Lusaka Club offers bowls, tennis and squash. Polo is a popular sport, especially among expatriates, and the polo field at the showgrounds usually has matches on the weekends. Hash House Harriers organise walks and runs on Saturdays at 15h00. Several swimming pools are available. The large Lusaka City Council swimming pool just off Lubu Road is open every day except Mondays from 10h00 to 18h00. One can also use the pools at the Intercontinental and Pamodzi hotels at modest prices.
Mulungushi Hall: The main hall can accommodate up to 2 000. Four other committee rooms can take from 40 to 200 people. There is a simultaneous translation service and proceedings can be transmitted on closed-circuit television.
The Inter-Continental Hotel, Pamodzi, Holiday Inn, Lilayi Lodge, Chaminuka Private Game Reserve , Ndeke Hotel and Hillview Hotel also have full conference and banqueting facilities.
Most smaller hotels also have conference facilities.
Dream Valley is in the suburbs and has great pools to swim in a thatched conference venue
Lusaka is close to the centre of Zambia between the eastern and western bulges. All major routes to the east, west, north and south flow through the city.
The Great North Road comes down from Tanzania via Kapiri Mposhi, and is about 1 100km from the Tanzanian border.
The Great East Rd from Chipata to Lusaka is 570km.
The road from Livingstone in the south meets up with the Kafue Road