Gaborone is a buzzing and tempting city that is bursting out of a nutshell. The inhabitants themselves feed the inexhaustible source of creative energy, a source that is far from saturated. The capital city was named after Kgosi Gaborone, leader of the Batlokwa people, who migrated from their ancestral homelands in the Magaliesberg Mountains and in 1881 settled in the Tlokweng area. Gaborone literally means ‘it does not fit badly’ or ‘it is not unbecoming.”
The tolerant mind-set of Gaborone derives from the gathering of the many different cultures and the thousands strong individual minds. The beautification of the edginess inspires, provokes opportunities and creates an intersection where two extremes meet each other and therefore become indefinable.
While the city boarders mark a town of a friendly and agreeable size, the many districts offer an immense variety of different atmospheres and make you often wonder yourself if you’re still wandering through the same metropolis. All neighbourhoods have two things in common: a warm friendly people and a rich experimental food culture. Gaborone boasts a range of hotels, and a choice of cinemas and casinos. Restaurants are numerous and varied, nightclubs often host live music by local artists. The National Museum is situated near the centre of town and houses important collections of traditional crafts and southern African fine art.
Gaborone is not different from any other city. It’s soiled with Western needs, such as pubs and luxury hotels. But as soon as you leave the city and its main roads, it is as if you walk straight into another world. Offering the best of both possible worlds, the silence takes your breath away for a fraction of time while you enter into rural Africa or wildlife areas within minutes.
Three Chiefs Monument
Crossing the railway tracks over the flyover, and turning into a newly developed Central Business District, the Monument of the Three Chiefs is another impressive historical statue that marks an important turning point in the history of Botswana.
In the late 1800s, Botswana territory was under threat from British industrialist Cecil Rhodes, who wished to take over Bechuanaland for his British South Africa Company. Three senior chiefs of the time – Chief Khama III of the Bangwato, Chief Sebele I of the Bakwena, and Chief Bathoen I of the Bangwaketse – travelled to London in 1885 to petition Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and whilst there, they were presented to Queen Victoria.
Gaining support from the British public, they petitioned the Queen for protection; and this was granted. The Bechuanaland Protectorate was established in the same year, thus circumventing the territory’s potentially disastrous incorporation into the British South Africa Company, and forever altering the history of the country. The monument was sculpted and cast by North Korean artisans, using a photograph of the three chiefs. It was unveiled on the occasion of the country’s 39th anniversary of independence in 2005.
Central Business District (CBD)
Now home to the tallest building in Gaborone, i-Towers, the growing skyline at the city’s Central Business District is a beacon of progress, and ever evolving display of how the country’s significant development in the business market. The world renowned Masa hotel square offers a mix of business and leisure. Impressive architecture and the settlement of international companies transform the CBD into a hub for travellers, young professionals and the city’s trendsetters.
However the centre of the city remains intact. Gaborone’s first mall – often referred to as The Main Mall – is a pedestrian-only business and commercial centre that boasts some of the town’s oldest shops and office buildings, as well as one of its first hotels, The President Hotel. Although some buildings have been refurbished, most of the architecture remains the same. At its top end, across the Nelson Mandela Road, sits the Government Enclave and the National Assembly; and at the opposite end are the Gaborone City Town Council offices. Shoppers will enjoy browsing the many outdoor stalls of African arts, crafts and curios that line the main walkway. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons the city centre is a lot less chaotic and is ideal for a peaceful stroll across the mall.
Having recently been renovated, the now world class national stadium hosts various sporting and non-sporting events. Offering a 40 000 seating capacity, a first for Botswana. The stadium is also home to the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSYC) gymnasium, a space which offers a number of fitness amenities designated for group fitness and cycling classes. BNSYC has a number of free classes offered to the public, including yoga.
For more information and details Tel: +267 392 3090 or 390 1305.
University of Botswana
Across the road from the national stadium is Botswana’s first institution of higher education. The University of Botswana, established in 1982 has been closely involved in the national development process of Botswana. Today the university, referred to with much admiration by locals as “Mma-Dikolo” (Mother of Universities), boasts nine faculties and a school for graduates. Notable alumni include judge, human rights activits and writer Unity Dow, states men and politician Duma Boko, whom also lectured there for ten years and not forgetting Zimbabwean lawyer, internationally recognized for her defence of journalists and press freedom, Beatrice Mtetwa.
Thapong Visual Arts Centre
Situated in the former magistrate’s house (1902), the Thapong Visual Arts Centre is home to Botswana’s young, gifted – and sometimes avant-garde – artists. In addition to the exhibitions it regularly stages, this very active centre also periodically offers art courses for children.
Also found in the same location, is The No. 1 Ladies Coffee House, named after Alexander McCall Smith’s Novel series ‘The Number one Ladies detective agency’. A quaint, art filled restaurant with lots of charm and innovative treats. The ingredients are super fresh with unexpected culinary combinations and its ambience makes sense with Thapong as its backdrop.
Enquire at their offices for a schedule of upcoming activities, or check the local newspapers. For details Tel: +267 316-1771.
Gaborone Game Reserve
Possibly one of the few national reserves to be situated inside a city, this relatively small (5 square kms) but well stocked park is home to a number of Botswana’s indigenous species, including zebra, eland, gemsbok, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, impala, kudu, steenbok, vervet monkeys, warthog and rock dassies, as well as numerous resident and migrant bird species, best viewed from the small dam in the park. Terrain includes tree savanna, riparian woodland, marsh and rocky outcrops. The park is popular for weekend outings and picnics, with two well-appointed picnic sites. There are also animal and bird observation hides and a visitors’ centre; and pre-booked educational tours can be arranged for both school children and visitors.
Gaborone’s most visible hill – and one of the city’s major landmarks – overlooks both the Gaborone Dam as well as its largest mall, Game City, providing a beautiful panorama of the city, and in the late afternoon, dramatic African sunsets. Kgale (meaning ‘the place that dried up’) is popular for climbers and picnickers, and has clearly defined routes up and down. Some wildlife still lives in the hills, and the most visible are the ubiquitous baboon troupes. The climb takes approximately one hour.
The Gaborone Dam, the water source for Gaborone, is in a sense the foundation of Gaborone itself. In a dry region water is of crucial importance, and the fact that a large dam could be successfully created here was a necessary precondition for the growth of the city. It is located by the edge of the city, set among hills and dense bush, is the city's main water source, Gaborone Dam. A popular local resort, it is available for non-motorised water-sport , but a Water Utilities Corporation permit is needed. Bass, bream and barbell tempt the avid fishermen in summer, and the Gaborone Yacht Club has its own swimming pool - not a bad idea since the dam not only has the occasional crocodile that escapes translocation, but bilharzia as well.