Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, is distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast. The country is home to diverse wildlife, including a significant cheetah population. The capital, Windhoek, and coastal town Swakopmund contain German colonial-era buildings such as Windhoek’s Christuskirche. Namibia has established several parks and reserves to celebrate and protect its rich plant and animal life.
Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world with just 3.13 people per square kilometer. It’s population can be divided into (at least) 11 ethnic groups, the biggest group of which is the Owambo people. Owabo is a collective name for twelve tribal groups that live in northern Namibia and southern Angola. As a country Namibia is still trying to find a national identity, but each of the countries cultural groups has its own a rich heritage and traditions. Most people prefer to think of themselves as Namibians.
Namibia was originally inhabited by nomadic hunters, gatherers, and livestock herders. Because of this, food in Namibia, for the black population at least, has always been more about survival than inspiration. Traditional Namibian food consists of a few staples, the most common of which is oshifima, a doughlike paste made from millet, usually served with a stew of vegetables or meat. Other common dishes include oshiwambo, a rather tasty combination of spinach and beef, and mealie pap, an extremely basic porridge. As a foreigner you’ll rarely find such dishes on the menu. Most Namibian restaurants in big towns serve a variation on European-style foods, alongside an abundance of seafood dishes. Outside these towns you’ll rapidly become familiar with fried-food joints. Whatever the sign above the door, you’ll find that most menus are meat-oriented, although you might be lucky to find a few vegetarian side dishes. The reason for this is pretty obvious – Namibia is a vast desert, and the country imports much of its fresh fruit and vegetables from South Africa. Meat is highly desired and eaten as often as it is feasible—daily for some, on special occasions for others. Fish consumption is slowly increasing with government promotion of Namibian fish products. More than anything else, German influences can be found in Namibia’s cake shops, where you can pig out on Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake) and other delicious pastries and cakes.
English is the national language, though it is the home language of only about 3 percent of the population. Ovambo languages are spoken by more than 80 percent of the population. Many Namibians speak two or more indigenous languages and at least a little of two of the three European languages (English, Afrikaans, German) in common use. When it comes to religion, the Christian community makes up 80%–90% of the population of Namibia, with at least 75% being Protestant, and at least 50% Lutheran.