19 Jul 2022
Namibia’s coastal town Swakopmund will be 130 years old on 4 August 2022 and it will celebrate this landmark in style.
The official event will be held on the historic day of 4 August to mark 130 years of growth from strength to strength through German and South African colonial times and now in an independent Namibia since 1990.
“This is a great milestone and it is evident that the inhabitants have built a strong foundation over the years, which is regularly being improved,” says Swakopmund town councillor and chair of the town’s management committee Wilfried Groenewald.
“The aim of celebrating this anniversary is to enrich the cultural diversity and social interaction of our town”, he added.
The festivities for the residents and visitors will be held end of August, as 26 August is a public holiday and this creates a long weekend. Originally a ten-day marathon of events was planned from 29 July to 7 August 2022.
“We shifted the planned festivities to end of August as we want to attract visitors from other parts of Namibia over that long weekend,” the municipality’s public relations department explained the change.
Visitors as well as the Swakopmunders can look forward to lots of entertainment, music shows and sport events.
A few months before the birthday date, the municipality took to social media and requested suggestions from the Swakopmunders for the celebrations. Several of the proposals are incorporated into the final programme.
The programme is currently being finalised by the municipality and will be released hopefully end of July. This year’s celebrations will be bigger than five years ago for the 125th anniversary.
Nestled between the Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean, with the Swakop River shaping its southern outskirts, Swakopmund was founded as a harbour and has evolved into Namibia’s main tourism centre at the coast. Since the Seventies, the mining sector has also gained importance. Swakopmund has approximately 70,000 inhabitants today and is the regional capital of the Erongo Region.
The former South West Africa became a colony of Imperial Germany in 1884 and needed a harbour. Just about 30 km south of the Swakop River near the Kuiseb River mouth was already a harbour since 1878, Walvis Bay, but it was part of a British enclave since 1878 and only became Namibian territory in 1994, but that is a different story .
The name ‘Swakop’ derives from Tsoakhaub/ Tsauchab - one of the local languages, literally meaning “rear end” because the river carries a lot of brown sand and mud during the rainy season when it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
Since the Europeans could not pronounce the name properly it became ‘Swakop’ and Swakopmund means mouth of the Swakop.
According to the author Hulda Rautenberg, who published the first detailed history of Swakopmund in 1967, the German imperial navy had been searching the coast for several years to find a suitable natural harbour for the new colony.
The crew of the German naval ship “Hyäne” (hyena) investigated the coast at the river mouth of the Swakop and discovered a reasonably suitable landing place there where the “Mole” (breakwater) was later built. That was on 4 August 1892 and the crew members rammed two poles into the sand as beacons to mark the spot.
A bit higher up, where today’s parking area of the Strand Hotel is, an old boat mast was also erected in the sand with a small flag in red, black and white on top.
The founding of Swakopmund was thus an unspectacular occasion, no trumpet fanfare or hissing of a flag and with a few seagulls as witnesses.
The first buildings were small wooden huts, which were erected for soldiers of the small German Schutztruppe (protection force) about four weeks after the discovery of the landing place.
Since then Swakopmund developed quickly and never looked back so to say, not even two world wars stopped that. Construction for a narrow gauge railway line to Windhoek started in 1897. By 1901, the small settlement already had a brewery!
Passengers and freight had to be lifted from ships in special “baskets” and nets at sea to rowing boats, rowed by ‘Kru’ men from West Africa, who rowed these boats through the crushing waves of the Atlantic Ocean to that beach, where holidaymakers chill today.
Many reminders of those pioneering days are still visible in Swakopmund, when wandering around the town with its colonial architecture: the Mole (breakwater), the old jetty and the lighthouse (from 1903) among others. The old fortress (Kaserne) is in the same street as the beautiful Woermannhaus – today the library – with its crafted wooden ceilings and courtyard for instance.
To date, 130 years on Swakopmund is not wedged in the past as it maintained a vibrant modern vibe, with new suburbs, a modern shopping centre in the northern outskirts, a variety of arts and entertainment. Diverse sport activities can be pursued with angling and surfing topping the list.
A recent addition is the ‘Dome’ – which houses a large indoor hall for mass concerts and international sport competitions.
The beaches are a huge attraction – especially in summer and holidaymakers from the inland, Namibia’s neighbouring countries and tourists from abroad flock to Swakopmund to enjoy the seaside. Swakopmund has something to offer for everyone.
So, plan your next trip to Swakopmund and join the celebrations for the town’s 130th birthday in August. We will keep you posted.
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