Population

2,516,089 inhabitants (2019).

Official language

English.

Languages spoken

In addition to English, Afrikaans and German are both spoken, as well as many indigenous languages, including Khoisan, a group of African dialects famous for their clicking sounds.

People

The Namibian population can be split into roughly 11 ethnic groups, with the biggest proportion (around half), made up of the Ovambo people. Other minorities include: Kavangos, Herero, Damara, European, Nama, Caprivian, San, Basrer and Tswana.

Religion

80% of Namibians are Christian and 20% follow Animism. Lutheranism, a branch of Protestantism, are the most numerous, but the Catholic community of Portuguese origin is also strong.

National Holiday

March 21: Independence Day.

Holiday Schedule

  • January 1: New Year’s Day.
  • March: A street festival called Mpabira-Enjando, which brings together a host of dancers and musicians in traditional costume.
  • March 21: Independence Day.
  • April: Easter.
  • In late April or early May: Windhoek Carnival.
  • May 1: Worker’s Day.
  • May 4: Cassinga Day.
  • May 25: Africa Day.
  • May 30: Ascension Day.
  • August 26: Herero Day – traditional dress is worn in Okahandja to commemorate the death of their leaders killed in the wars against the Khoikhoi and the Germans.
  • End of September: Windhoek Agricultural Fair.
  • Late October: Oktoberfest Windhoek (and elsewhere).
  • December 10: International Human Rights Day.
  • December 25: Christmas Day.
  • December 26: Day of Goodwill.

History

Upon arrival of the first Europeans, San and Bantu peoples shared the region of Namibia with little commotion. When the English and Germans came to investigate in the 1800s, a group of people called the Oorlams had already settled. In 1884 Germany seized Angra Pequena, a bay in the coast of Namibia, and in the aftermath, the land between the Cunene River and the Orange River became a German Protectorate. The German army, commanded by Curt von François, established Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, in 1890 and two years later, the city of Swakopmund. The German population in Namibia grew over the next hundred years and the indigenous tribes suffered at their hands. In 1904, the Herero people staged an uprising, but it was swiftly, brutally and methodically suppressed, killing thousands and leaving many refugees.

In 1915, the First World War allowed South Africa to take control of the German colony of Namibia. In 1920, the League of Nations placed South West Africa under a British mandate, but the South African government was granted the administration of the territory. After the Second World War, South Africa extended its apartheid policies to Namibia and became a military occupier. The creation of the Southwest African People Organisation (SWAPO) quickly followed, with the aim to liberate Namibia from South African rule and become independent. The South African mandate became increasingly challenged by international organisations and in 1966 the UN ordered South Africa to withdraw from the trust territory, but they refused, which led to a long guerrilla war with SWAPO. The UN, under pressure from the Soviet and developing countries, recognised the leadership of SWAPO.

In 1979, apartheid was abolished. It was not until the late eighties that SWAPO, confined to the periphery of the country, agreed to join other Namibian political parties. In 1988 South Africa agreed to allow Namibia to become independent. A constitution was written and Namibia became independent on 21 March 1990. Policy Namibia is a republic composed of 13 administrative regions. The president, head of state, is elected for five years by national vote, a term which can be renewed once. He appoints the prime minister and members of the government. The parliament has two chambers: the National Assembly (78 members, elected for a term of five years) and the National Council (26 members, elected for six years). The Assembly is the principal legislative body, the Council's role is mainly advisory. The Supreme Court is the highest court of the country.

Famous Namibians

  • Sam Nujoma (born 1929). A historical revolutionary leader of SWAPO and the first president of Namibia.
  • Frankie Fredericks (born 1967): A former sprinter, who won four silver Olympic medals, two in 1992 and two in 1996. He is the world indoor record holder for 200 metres and was born on the outskirts of Windhoek.
  • N!xau ?Toma (1944-2003). A bush farmer and actor, he’s most famed for an appearance in 1980’s movie The Gods Must Be Crazy and its sequels.

Etiquette

Society in Namibia tends to be relaxed with few unusual customs to worry about ahead of your stay, but here are a few pointers for common etiquette. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Namibian’s respect the older generation, so it’s advisable for tourists to follow suit. Greetings are also important – many shake hands and it’s polite to swap pleasantries before launching into your reason of business.

Shopping

A dazzling display of items are on offer in Namibia if you know where to look. Gems of all kinds are a popular memento – diamonds, amethysts, topaz and tourmaline are all ready and waiting to take the return journey home with you. Leather goods, made using the skins of livestock, are often sold, alongside wood carvings, hunting items like bows and arrows and various local crafts such as basketry, pottery and woven fabrics. A vast and beautiful array of art is also sold in galleries in cities and make the perfect holiday keepsake to enjoy for years to come.

Food

Namibia’s menu is representative of its character – that is, a fusion of history, cultural influences and a struggle for survival lives at its core. Every ethnic group has their specialities, although there are common threads throughout. A normal meal could include, for starters, larvae Mopane (large edible caterpillars) and continue with a variety of grilled meats (beef, kudu, oryx, springbok) or a potjiekos, literally translated as ‘small-pot food’, a stew preferably cooked outside with meat and vegetables. Cake shops offer a sweet finish to meals with many German-inspired puddings, including apple strudel, chocolate cake and black forest gateaux. Seafood is also in plentiful supply and excellent.

Drink

Tap water isn’t recommended, so it’s best to keep stocked up with bottled water and refrain from ice. Partly due to its colonial past, Namibia has inherited a certain quality that has long distinguished the Germans – brewing prowess. Namibians therefore celebrate the hops in excellent conditions and Oktoberfest Windhoek is a highlight of the country’s calendar. The country’s wine comes from South Africa and there are many varieties on offer.

Useful information

Contact one of our Namibia specialists