Capitals in Africa
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Capital of Botswana
The capital of Botswana, Gaborone, is a serious candidate for the most tranquil capital on the globe. The streets have wide dusty curbs and buildings are low and far apart. A good chunk of downtown is taken up by government buildings which are all neat without being striking. Along roads and in every lot stand shady trees, making Gaborone a very green place. The people are friendly and helpful and there are no barbwire or electric fences anywhere, not even at the parliament or the president's office. The main areas of interest are sadly around the parliament and what is known as the Main Mall (a pedestrian street lined with small shops) and the real shopping malls on the outskirts of town. Some probably praise that Gaborone doesn't have that colourful African madness you find elsewhere on the continent, but many find it downright boring. No matter how you look at it, Gaborone is a one-day town.
Capital of Cape Verde, Santiago island
The capital Praia is just an overgrown version of any other town in Cape Verde. A beach, a harbour, and a cluster of mismatched concrete dwellings, all kept in the usual dull grey. Well, that is not totally true, Praia also has an Old Town, called the Plateau since it’s raised above the rest of the city. Here, the houses are a bit more cute and colourful, and there is a range of colonial buildings, like the court house and President Palace, which even has a splendid viewpoint behind it. The Old Town also has a shaded town square, a vegetable market and a pedestrian street, 5. De Julho, which is mostly famous for its range of restaurants. Since the people of Cape Verde is very easygoing and calm, it should not come as a surprise that Praia is just the same.
Capital of Djibouti
One of the busiest port in Africa, Djibouti City has a sort of salty-seaman feel to it. Hot, humid and decaying, the former French colony still bares the markers of its former ruler. The old town of Djibouti abounds with the pastels and facades common in 19th-century French buildings. The tight and hemmed in streets are full of vibrant cultural life, while the buildings seem to be slowly dying. Even the mosques and market are stylistically in tune with the period. Sure, Djibouti is expensive. Sure it's hard to get to. But the reward is being one of the few tourists to wander its streets caught in a time warp.
Capital of Eritrea
The Eritrean capital of Asmara is not at all what you might expect from an African capital of one of the poorest countries on Earth. Firstly, as the 6th highest capital city, Asmara literally elevates you above the heat and humidity plaguing neighbouring big cities. But Asmara's cool feel is more than mere geography. The anarchy and chaos of places like Djibouti or Addis have not made their way here. Wide boulevards remain largely uncongested and shockingly orderly. While the city may lack any significant tourist sites, it's instead the Italian influenced, street-side cafe culture that ends up filling your day. People watching is the name of the game. Although considering Eritrea is also one of the least visited countries on Earth, most of those people are likely watching you!
Capital of Lesotho
Let's face it, Maseru is not the centre of the world. It's even located as far from the centre of Lesotho as possible, right on the border to South Africa. It's a clutter of those buildings that any nation needs to function, like public offices, banks, hospital, etc. and a few coffee shops which seem to be favoured by foreign NGOs. Though the pace is slow and people are friendly, there is absolutely no reason to spend more time here than necessary, particularly when the beautiful Lesotho highlands are right at the doorstep.
Capital of Malawi
Lilongwe is another nondescript African capital. It's hardly a city, just a very spreadout town with different neighbourghoods, none more attractive than the others. Dirty Lilongwe River runs through town and a visit gives an grim, though interesting, insight into poverty ridden Lilongwe. The chaotic local markets are always a good place for some people watching and if you need to pick up some souvenirs, try the surprisingly big craft market outside the post office. Oddly, there is a nature sancturary right in the middle of Lilongwe, which might be worth a look if you are stranded for too many days, but else there isn't a hell of a lot to see or do in Lilongwe.
Capital of Mozambique
Maputo is a wonderful mix of worn Potuguese colonial leftovers, concrete mansions, palm lined avenues and a few high-rises here and there - and lots of potholes. It has a beautiful seaside location with a long beach (Costa do Sol) within chapa (minibus) distance, but also a fair share of scruffy areas. Downtown is bustling but never hectic, and the central market is colourful and surprisingly small and tranquil. There are street cafes on the main avenues and small shack bars with plastic chairs that spill onto the side streets in the afternoon. Maputo is known for its friendly vibe and has enough charisma and character to charm anyone who chooses to explore the city for a couple of days.
Capital of Rwanda
© Marie-Eve Dugas
Up and down, and up and down... Kigali is Rwanda in miniature. The city is spread over many hills, making it a bit difficult to find your way around. Luckily, fairly cheap moto-taxis (and, watch this, with helmets) are everywhere to take you to most places. Kigali doesn't fit the idea you could have of an African capital: with its large tree-lined and well-manicured boulevards, extremely clean and safe streets, its people driving slowly and cautiously and no real city centre to speak of, it looks more like a very civilised busy suburb. However, it is the kind of city that grows on you, and when you get to explore its diverse neighbourhoods, meet their friendly inhabitants, and take in the superb views of the surrounding hills, you can't help but start to love it.
Capital of Somaliland
It is no secret to those who have watch a news broadcast or read a newspaper that Somalia has been rife to turmoil and upheaval since seemingly forever. And there are reminders of the troubled past everywhere. But what the sensationalism does not prepare you for is the peace and stability (relatively speaking) of the self-declared independent region of Somaliland. Here, there are no bombings. There are no kidnappings. Just normal everyday folks going about their daily business. And it's capital, Hargeisa, is a laid-back, easy-going town. For the traveller, there aren't any real "sights" of note. But what you get is a genuine welcome. Locals don't see you as a tourist or an invader, but as a visiting friend. The honest nature makes a stay here shockingly easy. One of the last places like it on Earth.
Capital of Swaziland
Despite being the capital and the largest city in Swaziland, Mbabane has the atmosphere of a large village. The town is relaxed and the people are welcoming and friendly. Not many visitors drop by, so they are curious about the few who come. There is not much to see in Mbabane in terms of... well, anything. However, Mbabane does have an oversized Taiwanese embassy, probably due to the fact that Swaziland is one of the few nations that officially recognise Taiwan as an independent state. The centre of action is at the minibus station and the next door open air Swazi Plaza, but don't get fooled with the fancy name, it's very simple. Mbabane is best used as a base to get to nearby sights like Sibebe Rock and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, but if you have your own mean of transportation, there is no reason to stay there.