By Biruktayet Bihon
August 27, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Located at the apex of South Africa, Botswana is one of the Southern African countries with rapid and impressive economic development in the African continent.
The capital of Botswana is Gaborone. The city is a relatively young and sparsely populated town. It is said to have been built on the site of a small settlement.
The capital of Botswana moved to Gaborone after the government decided to abandon the former capital of Mafikeng due to its disadvantaged strategic location.
I recently visited Gaborone on an official capacity. I was able to see most part of the city which motivated me to share my travel story with my readers.
Arriving at Gaborone International Airport, I took a taxi to Masa Square Hotel, one of the four-star hotels in the capital. On my way to the Hotel, I exchanged my Dollars to Pula, which is the national currency of Botswana.
The name pula derives from the English word rain or making it rain, which is actually a phrase of delight, prosperity, happiness and togetherness in this part of the world, besides being the title for the national currency.
Talking with some of the residents, I noticed something about the climate condition of the city. Botswana receives very little rainfall during the year. In fact, the name pula (rain) seems to indicate the hope and wish for Botswanans to have wet and fertile motherland.
If you hear people screaming or chanting pula, it means something great has happened. In fact, I have seen group of people shouting out ‘pula’ during demonstration.
However, having dry landscape did not seem to prevent the Botswanans from building their great capital, Gaborone. According to the residents, the capital was built within three years. Thinking about the one-hundred-plus-years of history of Addis Ababa, I found it amazing to look at such a young capital with plenty of modern schools, hospitals, power plants, communication systems, government buildings and financial centers.
The quality of the residential areas and the splendid roads and railways lines show the country’s commitment to providing highly developed infrastructure to its people.
This rapid construction of the city must have been facilitated by the huge deposits of diamonds Botswana is famous for. In fact, this resource is reflected around the city by the large number of diamond shops you see scattered around the city.
During my bus trip to one of the largest casinos in Gaborone, the Grand Palm, one of the guides from the ministry of tourism of Gaborone jokingly said diamonds are ladies’ best friend in Botswana.
The main export here is diamonds. From the information I got from my guide, the town of Jwaneng, which is near Gaborone, has the largest and richest diamond mines in the world.
“Don’t tell your loved ones you are traveling to Botswana, the guide said. He/she may ask you to bring home some diamonds like mine.”
For visitors like us, Gaborone’s tourism ministry offers excursions to places such as the beautiful Mokolodi Nature Park, located just twelve kilometers from the center of the city.
I found the place beautiful, flat and expansive landscape, really pleasing to see. This, along with the great facilities and services the country provides for visitors like me, makes this place an ideal travel destination for many. The country provides excellent hospitality and service to the traveler. Botswanans are friendly people with a great pride for their country.
From the information I gathered, ecotourism in Botswana is one of the most developed in Africa.
At Gaborone, I also went to visit the Cathedral of Christ. The majority Botswanans are believed to be Christians. I also saw one of the biggest stadiums in Botswana, the Botanical Garden, and the Museum of Botswana.
During my visit to the national museum, I was able to learn about the country’s history. The first President of Botswana Seretse Khama, who is considered as the George Washington of Botswana, was married to a white lady (which was controversial at the time). He played an important role in Botswana becoming independent in 1966.
The independence of Botswana did not come easy. Like many colonies, it had trouble breaking away from Britain. After the independence, white British nationals who did not want to return to Britain or other places, stayed in Botswana maintaining their citizenship.
With black as well as white races living mixed, Gaborone is one of the least densely populated cities in the world.
The local cuisine is also surprising, as the surrounding area is. Although I can mostly eat dishes of poultry, meat, and fish, I enjoyed having peanuts with pepper and wood trends, which have the power of giving you a strong spirit, as I was told.
Traveling to Gaborone does not come cheap by any measure. Botswana operates on a high-cost low-impact model, meaning they keep prices high for tourism, so that they can preserve the beauty of their country.
According to the record I have from my guide in Gaborone, one of the most expensive and sought-after things to do in Botswana is to see the Okavango Delta, which is some 630 km away from the capital. Whilst the delta is incredible, it may put some dent to your wallet.
I found things like camping and groceries to be extremely affordable. But to experience the areas outside Gaborone to the fullest, you may have to deal with Pula.
Just before the sun starts to sink over the horizon, the city of Gaborone looks livelier with the lights in every corner of roads. The automatic lights that spring up in the middle of the roads make the city shine like a star. It is a magical spectacle, and I was very impressed when I went back to my room.
After a morning drive the following day, I was able to see the outskirts of the city which is mostly occupied by various bird species. I was able to see peacock for the first time. There were also plenty of monkeys going around in the area, looking for any food they can snatch from people.
Overall, my visit to Gaborone was immensely pleasing. I left with plenty of beautiful memories to take with me back home to Ethiopia. I hope you too will visit the beautiful city of Gaborone one day.
Biruktayet Bihon is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. She can be reached through this form.
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