Eleven ethnic groups make up the majority of the population, which is overall around two million people, with each tribe contributing its own traditions to the core of Namibian culture. The population is youthful, with 44 percent aged fourteen and under and only 4 percent aged older than 65. About 60 percent live in the far north, where rainfall is sufficient for grain farming. Most households are not nuclear families, but contain other kin as well. The head of the household manages domestic finances, makes important decisions, and organizes productive activities.
The tribes are divided as follows – About half of the population belong to the Ovambo tribe, which has several sub-tribes. Approximately 9 belong to the Kavangos tribe. Other ethnic groups are Herero (7 %), Damara (7%), Nama (5%), Caprivian (4%), Bushmen (3%), Baster (2%) and Tswana (0.5%).
The oldest inhabitants, the San, are known to be great storytellers and love music, dance and mimicry. The Nama of the south have a tradition of prose and poetry and a natural talent for music. Eight Owambo sub-tribes reside in Namibia, the largest being the Kwanyama. One of the interesting features of the traditional Owambo social system is that lineage is traced through the mother and through maternal ancestors. The Herero are a pastoral cattle-breeding people. Herero women wear Victorian-style dresses adapted from the wives of Rhenish missionaries. The Himba women (of Herero descent) rub their bodies with a mixture of red ochre and fat, wear traditional body ornaments and garments, and have hairstyles that correspond to their age, sex and social status.
Most Namibians speak Bantu languages like Oshiwambo and Otjiherero as their first language. Others speak Khoisan languages (Nama/Damara and various Bushman languages). Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language, which became popular as a common language during occupation. German is spoken by most of the white population. However, English is the official language, and is mainly spoken by young people and urban dwellers.
Because of the regional climatic differences within the country, Namibia has a broad variety of plant species from desert and semi-desert vegetation to subtropical plants. Most of country is savannah with low scrubs and grasses prospering in the arid conditions. With rain, these same areas often spout various wild flowers, though seldom for long. In contrasting form, the Caprivi and Kavango regions support a great deal of aquatic plant life and leafy vegetation along the many waterways and riverbanks. But no mention of Namibian flora would be complete without the Kokerboom or quiver tree and the Welwitschia, one of the oldest plants known to man.
This quiver tree is indigenous to the southern part of Namibia and gets its common name from the Bushmen who use its branches and bark to make quivers for their arrows. The plants are aloe succulents and can reach a height of up to 9 meters in height.
East of the Skeleton Coast, the Welwitschia is another desert-adapted species that absorbs dew and precipitation from fog over specially developed structures on their leaves. It grows flat on the ground and has only two leaves from its thick trunk. The leaves continue to grow throughout the long life of the plant. It is hard to determine the age of these plants, but it is believed that they live up to 1,500 years or more.
This is Africa and the climate reflects it. But just as Namibia is filled with contrasting geography, equivalent climactic differences do apply depending on your location. Partially covered by the Namib, one of the world’s driest deserts, Namibia’s climate is generally very dry and pleasant. The cold Benguella current keeps the coast cool, damp and free of rain for most of the year. Inland, all the rain falls in summer (November to April). January and February are hot, when daytime temperatures in the interior can exceed 40ºC (104ºF), but nights are usually cool. Winter nights can be fairly cold, but days are generally warm and quite nice. The bottom line – Namibia is a year-round destination. Just pack accordingly.
Time & Date Summer time: GMT + 2 hours from the 1st Sunday in September to the 1st Sunday in April. Winter time: GMT + 1 hour from the 1st Sunday in April to the 1st Sunday in September.
The Namibia Dollar (N$); the Namibia Dollar and South African Rand are the only legal tender in Namibia and can be used freely to purchase goods and services.
English, German, Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, Rukwangari, Silozi, Otjiherero, Damara, Nama, Khisan and Setswana
Food & Drinks:
Traditional Namibian cuisine is rarely served for visitors, so the food at restaurants tends to be European in style, with a bias towards German dishes and seafood. It is at least as hygienically prepared as in Europe, so don’t worry about stomach upsets. Namibia is a very meat-orientated society, and many menu options will feature steaks from one animal or another. However, there is usually a small vegetarian selection in most restaurants, and if you eat seafood you’ll be fine. If you are camping then you’ll be buying and cooking your own food anyway.
In the supermarkets you’ll find pre-wrapped fresh fruit and vegetables (though the more remote the areas you visit, the smaller your choice), and plenty of canned foods, pasta, rice, bread, etc. Most of this is imported from South Africa. You’ll probably be familiar with some of the brand names. Traditional foodstuffs eaten in a Namibian home may include the following: eedingu dried meat, carrots and green beans; kapana bread; mealie pap form of porridge, most common in South Africa; omanugu also known as mopane worms, these are fried caterpillars, often cooked with chilli and onion; oshifima dough-like staple made from millet; oshifima ne vanda millet with meat and oshiwambo spinach and beef.
When buying your travel insurance, always check the small print – some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which could be anything from scuba diving to horse riding. You should check whether the medical coverage is on a pay first, claim later basis and, more importantly, ensure that your medical coverage includes the cost of medical evacuation.
Many nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival but we suggest that you contact your local travel agent to find out the latest regulations.
Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport
Currency: Namibian dollar
Population: 2.303 million
Official languages: English, German