Friday, 9 June 2017

NAMIBIA: Okahandja

Okahandja is a city of 24,100 inhabitants in Otjozondjupa Region, central Namibia, and the district capital of the Okahandja electoral constituency.

It is known as the Garden Town of Namibia. It is located 70 km north of Windhoek on the B1 road. It was founded around 1800, by two local groups, the Herero and the Nama.

Okahandja means the place where two rivers flow into each other to form one wide one in Otjiherero.

A German pastor, Heinrich Schmelen, became the first European to visit the town in 1827.

In 1844, two missionaries were permanently assigned to the town, and a church dates from this period. A military post was established in Okahandja in 1894, and it is this date that is officially recognized as the town's founding.

Maharero and his sons, Jan Jonker Afrikaner, Hosea Kutako and Clemens Kapuuo are buried in the town.

Okahandja's population is growing rapidly. It stood at just over 14,000 as measured by the 2001 Population and Housing Census, and is estimated to have surpassed 24,000 in 2012.

Von Bach Dam is situated outside of Okahandja. It provides the majority of Windhoek's water. An open-air curio market attracts tourists, and the town serves as the administrative centre for the Herero people.

Directly north of Windhoek (70km) lies the industrial town of Okahandja, known as the 'Garden Town of Namibia'. Several major companies are based here and it is fast becoming a Windhoek 'sleeper' town', and not just because of it's excellent infrastructure.

Many travellers find Okahandja just the place to take a break on their travels through the country, especially if they don't find the need to go on to the capital city. One of the towns lesser-known claims to fame is that it has no traffic lights!!!

The word, 'Okahandja' is derived from Otjiherero (a local tribal language) and means 'The place where two rivers flow into each other to form one wide one.' (Or a 'short broad river.') These two rivers are the Okakango and the Okamita, which flow only the during the summer season and are dry throughout most of the year.

The weather in Okahandja is mild during the winter months and rarely goes below 0°C. But during the summer months, (from September to March) when it is relatively hot, temperatures of up to 45°C during midday are not uncommon.

Okahandja is rich in history and it revolves mostly around the Herero and Nama tribal people. Chiefs Tjamuaha and Kahitjene came to Okahandja in 1800 to establish themselves here.

Chief Tjamuaha was the father of Chief Maherero, who was known to be the great leader of the Herero people. In 1827 the first white person, Heinrich Schmelen a German pastor, came to Okahandja and called the place 'Schmelenverwachtung'.

The Rhenish Mission sent two missionaries, Hugo Hahn and Heinrich Kleinschmidt to Okahandja in 1844 to do church work.

All went peacefully in Okahandja until the 23rd of August 1850, when the 'Bloodbath of Okahandja' took place between the Nama and Herero speaking people.

Today the site where this historic battle took place in known as 'Moordkoppie' and is situated behind the town's school next to the Windhoek - Karibib main road.

Jonker Afrikaner moved to Okahandja in 1854, where he later died. Chief Tjamuaha also died in the same year but had previously advised his son, Maherero, that he should stand up against the Nama-speaking people and overpower them. This was to be the beginning of a 7 year war.

True to his great leadership, Chief Maherero, conquered the Nama people and they in turn turned to the Germans for protection. On the 12th of January 1904, the Herero speaking people rebelled against the German occupation, but were chased off into the Kaiserkop area, East of Okahandja.

In 1870 the first school was established by Reinish missionaries. Many other businesses flourished in Okahandja, including Wecke & Voigts which was establish in 1892.

Unfortunately the original building burnt down, and has been replaced with a smaller shop which is situated on the original site on the corner of Bahnhof Strasse and Voortrekker road.

On 25 June, 1894 Lentwein established a military station in Okahandja, this date was later regarded as the date on which Okahandja was officially established.

Soon afterwards in 1895 the first postal services at Okahandja were established, with camels being used to transport the mail. The first post office at Okahandja was established in 1896, and still stands in the main street.

Due to the historical fact that two Herero Chiefs, Kahimunua and Nikodemus, were shot by the Germans in Gobabis and were buried at the Bantu Kirche, off Martin Nieb street, every year towards the end of August, the people of Okahandja remember them, on what is now called Maherero Day.

Thousands of Hereros come to Okahandja to pay tribute to their fallen heroes. They make a grand procession of brightly coloured traditional dresses, military outfits and prancing horses. They proceed along a route which starts at the grave sites and moves on to a site on the other side of the main Windhoek road, where a great tribal banquet and celebration is held.

Tourists are always made to feel most welcome at this important event.

Okahandja holds a quaint atmosphere stooped in history and tradition. There are many historical sites to visit and a large variety of birds to view.

It is crammed with many small businesses including supermarkets, banks, (with 24hr ATM services) 2 pharmacy's, hardware and clothing stores, vehicle and tyre repair facilities, a launderette and dry cleaners, hairdressers, stationary shops, shoe shops, a photo developer, computer and Internet shop, hotels & other accommodation establishments, doctor's rooms and a hospital, bakeries, numerous restaurants and a sports bar, to mention a few. There are the larger industrial businesses too, and 4 (24hr) petrol stations, 3 of which have take-away meals.

Just 25km from Okahandja, is the Gross Barmen Hot Springs Resort, where the main attraction is (not surprisingly) it's hot spring water.

There is an (hot water spring) inside swimming pool, open-air swimming pool, restaurant, filling station, shop, and self-catering bungalows, making this a popular tourist attraction and is worth the visit.

Another popular resort - the Von Bach Dam - where water sports, angling and bird-watching are favourite pastimes with locals and visitors alike.

The town of Okahandja has several accommodation establishments ranging from guest houses to hotels, while the surrounding area has several excellent lodges.

The town is also an important centre for woodcarvers from the north, who sell their carvings at the craft markets on a co-operative basis, next to the main road at both entrances to Okahandja.

This is a good place to pick up that special souvenir or gift to take home.