Lusaka is like most capital cities around the world – it is busy. However, many visitors to Zambia need to pass through the city. Lusaka has a population of 1,700,000 and sometimes I think there are as many vehicles. Traffic congestion is a problem …
I will not go into detail of Lusaka, just a few basics.
This map merely shows the main roads in and out. If you are passing through, try to avoid rush hour times when people are going or leaving work, also around lunch time.
You can see the roundabouts; the crosses mark traffic lights. Drivers in Lusaka tend to be courteous – they know there is a traffic problem in the town so they have learned to be patient.
This is just the usual advice about travelling in any major town: Make sure the doors of your vehicle are locked as you drive through – there are lots of street traders hanging around traffic lights.
There are very many hotels, lodges, guesthouses and camps in and around Lusaka. I am only going to mention two of which are easily accessed and out of the main centre and one which is convenient for town centre.
Eureka Campsite has chalets and camping. It is located on the Kafue Road (the road to Lusaka as you drive in from Livingstone or Lower Zambezi) on the eastern side of the road.
Pioneer Camp is on the Great East Road (as you drive in from South Luangwa). It is a couple of kilometres off the main road but is signposted near a police checkpoint.
Chachacha Backpackers. This camp is in the centre of town and is handy for backpackers who have arrived by bus. The taxi drivers will know it.
If you are a business traveller and do not have deep pockets to book into a large hotel, there are guesthouses all over. These guesthouses are generally well-run and clean. Choose one which is near your place of work as travelling around town can be time-consuming.
- The Wild Stuff
Apart from museums, art galleries and local monuments, Lusaka has two wildlife venues which might be interesting for the visitor.
Firstly, Lusaka Park was opened in 2015 so that Lusaka folk can take their families to see some wildlife. It is on Leopards Hill road about 20 km from the town centre. Animals to be found there are white rhino, sable, kudu, eland, lechwe, hartebeest, giraffe, impala and puku.
Animal Research Connections has been helping ZamParks with logistics of the park.
Secondly, there is the Lilayi Elephant Orphanage on the Kafue Road. Very young elephants who have been rescued are taken to Lilayi. They may need a vet from time to time, so Lilayi can offer that. The release centre in Kafue National Park was found to be too remote to bring a vet when needed.
To find out more:
Lusaka was originally the home of Headman Lusaakas of the Lenje people. The Lenje people are thought to be some of the early immigrants to now-Zambia. They came from now-Democratic Republic of Congo around 700AD.
Around 1900 there were about 1,300,000 people in the whole of now-Zambia and the people moved for farming, for safety or just on a whim. There was plenty of space. (This population gives us less than 2 people per sq km!)
In 1899 the British South African Company (BSAC) was formed and took control of the administration of the Rhodesias – now-Zambia and now-Zimbabwe. Rhodesia was named after Cecil Rhodes, the man at the helm of BSAC. Cecil Rhodes was an empire builder for the somewhat reluctant British government and he had a dream of a Cape to Cairo Railway Line – all on British soil.
The railway line reached Bulawayo (now-Zimbabwe) from Cape Town in 1897. There was debate as to the next direction – the Zambezi River had to be crossed.
Coal was found at Wankie (Hwange), the local people claiming that they had found ’stones which burned’. Wankie is to the northwest of Bulawayo. This prompted BSAC to take the route to the Victoria Falls, via Wankie. In those days timber had been used to power the steam locos. The forests all along the line were being decimated by the need to cut down trees to feed the locos’ voracious appetites. Coal would be good.
The railway reached Vic Falls in 1904 and continued north to the ‘Copper Country’ (and towards Cairo!) The line was single track all along its length with sidings to allow for trains to pass each other. The sidings also had overhead tanks for of water to replenish the loco’s supplies. When the railway line reached Lusaakas from Victoria Falls in 1906 it was decided to put a railway siding there.
All these sidings were attractions for the incoming people of European descent to set up stores and to farm nearby. The railway line was convenient for transporting supplies. The train only came probably once a week but people would leave a box at the siding with a note for the loco driver and his mate – instructions on where to deliver the box and what supplies were expected.
After 25 years BSAC’s contract ended and the British government took charge of the administration of Northern Rhodesia (now-Zambia). With pressure from the mines to the northwest, they decided that the country needed a ‘proper’ capital. Almost by default it had been located in Livingstone, a very long way away from the centre of industry.
After much debate, Lusaakas, now Lusaka, was chosen as the new capital – it was central and there was plenty of space for expansion. But, although the new capital site had been chosen, it took five years before the plans and building could be done – it was during the world slump years. Finally, though, in 1935, Lusaka became the capital of Northern Rhodesia.
In those days ‘class’ was everything. As in British society, everyone knew their place and did not complain. So it was in British colonies. The administration in Lusaka was placed about 3 km away from the hoi-polloi of traders and workers. This original administrative centre can be seen around the High Court in Lusaka.
Nowadays Lusaka has mushroomed into a vast cosmopolitan society where people of all nationalities rub shoulders. Lusaka’s population of 1,700,000 is more than the whole country in 1900.
This is just a snippet of why Lusaka is in the place that it is.
Some old photographs from Livingstone Museum
Early photo of Lusaka.
This has to be Lusaka. It had a serious problem with flooding