What is the richest city in Namibia

Kolmannskuppe - the ghost town that sinks in the sand

From TRAVELBOOK | February 07, 2020, 3:31 p.m.

The small town of Kolmannskuppe in the south of what is now Namibia was once considered the richest city in Africa. But the wealth lasted only a short time. Today Kolmannskuppe is a ghost town that is being swallowed up more and more by sand. The rise and fall of a place that became a pilgrimage site for urban explorers.

The first person known to have been in this inhospitable part of the Namib Desert was a man named Coleman. The Nama - that's the name of a people native to southern Africa - got stuck in a dune there in 1905 with his ox cart. Coleman could be saved, but his cart stayed behind. This is how the place in the former colony of German South West Africa got its name: Kolmannskuppe or Kolmanskop.

In the same year the Lüderitz railway stopped on its way to Aus, where the protection force maintained a base, also regularly in Kolmannskuppe. But it wasn't until 1908 that a community began to develop here, the origin of which goes back to a very special find: diamonds. Two railroad workers had stumbled upon the precious stones at a neighboring train station and thus triggered a run on Kolmannskuppe.

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How a camp became the richest village in Africa

The initial diamond camp quickly turned into a real settlement. And because the diamonds helped the new residents to grow rapidly wealthy, Kolmannskuppe quickly became the richest village in Africa at the time. Stately stone villas based on the German model were built, as well as various service and administration buildings, a power station, a school, a hospital, a bowling alley, a theater, a gym, several shops, a swimming pool and even an ice factory where ice blocks for the freezers Resident was established. The workers, on the other hand, lived in simple wooden huts, the black unskilled workers in simple barracks outside Kolmannskuppe.

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In the Kolmannskuppe area there is nothing but sand

400 inhabitants lived in Kolmannskuppe during the heyday. The construction of the settlement and the influx of so many people was astonishing insofar as the place is located in one of the most hostile regions of Namibia. There is nothing but sand and sometimes violent sandstorms. You can't grow anything there, and there aren't any freshwater springs either. But with enough money you can simply buy any luxury, no matter where you are. The water and food for the supply of Kolmannskuppe were carted in from Cape Town, 1000 kilometers away. The building materials for the buildings were ordered from Germany, just like the machines.

At some point there were no more diamonds

For several years the people in Kolmannskuppe lived a life full of prosperity and carefree. But the day came when there were no more diamonds around the place. The diamond fields therefore shifted further and further south, and people gradually moved away from the richest city in Africa. In 1930 the diamond mining in Kolmannskuppe was finally stopped. The last family left the city at the end of the 1950s, and the hospital also closed that year.

The deserters left their houses to the desert - and over the years the desert took over the deserted place more and more. Due to the many storms, more and more sand was carried into the houses, which were visibly falling into disrepair. In addition, building materials that were still usable were taken from the former luxury estate for the construction of new houses in Lüderitz. Kolmannskuppe became a ghost town.

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Today Kolmannskuppe is an open-air museum

It was not until 1983 that the government in Namibia decided to have some of the old stone villas restored and to turn Kolmannskuppe into a kind of open-air museum for visitors who are interested in the history of the old colonial town. If you travel to Lüderitz, you should definitely not miss a detour there. Some houses and rooms have been faithfully restored. On a guided tour or on your own, you can immerse yourself in the past of this wondrous place, which looks different every time you visit due to the constantly changing mass of sand.

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