Lusaka has become something of a boom town of late. New buildings are going up everywhere and many chain stores and shopping malls are springing up all over the sprawling suburbs. For many, this is the perfect example of what economic liberalization has done for the country. And viewed from the villages, Lusaka is the glittering capital which still persuades rural Zambians to migrate to the city in search of jobs and dreams
Lusaka has become something of a boom town of late. New buildings are going up everywhere and many chain stores and shopping malls are springing up all over the sprawling suburbs.
The road development isn’t quite keeping up so peak hour traffic is finally becoming like other cities, but it has an optimistic air of a town on the rise. For many, this is the perfect example of what economic liberalization has done for the country. And viewed from the villages, Lusaka is the glittering capital which still persuades rural Zambians to migrate to the city in search of jobs and dreams. Well over 60% of its 2 million inhabitants are unemployed, but there are surprisingly few beggars. Although petty theft occurs, most people try to make an honest living selling their wares or services, always with a friendly smile.
The markets are a hive of activity as the thousands of stalls are set up, graded and cleared away every day. A myriad of motor spares dealers, restaurants, hairdressers, fishmongers, fruit sellers and rows and rows of “salaula” – stalls of discarded clothing from the West sold to Africa by the bale. The capital covers an area of over 70km2 and is one of the fastest-growing cities in central Africa. Its population almost trebled in the immediate post-independence era and continues to grow daily. There has been no influx control and the city is bursting at the seams. Grossly inadequate municipal facilities are hard-pressed to cope with the ever-increasing demand. It is a sprawling, metropolis with many multi-storey buildings, high-walled suburbs and busy shanty towns. Development has brought together people of many nationalities, making it a bustling center for economic, political and cultural activities. The city lies at the junction of the main highways to the north, east, south and west, and at an altitude of 1300 meters above sea level. There are air links to most of the major tourist destinations in Zambia from Lusaka International Airport.
When to visit
The most appealing factor too many who have made Lusaka their home is the superb climate - warm sunny summers, interspersed with cooling thunderstorms and mild winters with loads of sunshine. It can get very hot between October and March if there’s no rain. The average rainfall, between November and April, is about 950mm. Summer temperatures range from 20 degrees to 32 degrees C. Winter temperatures from 10 degrees to about 26 degrees. Humidity is usually below 40%.
There are no scheduled bus services – the blue taxis range from 12 seater minibuses, to dilapidated cars, to good dial-up cabs, to chauffeur-driven vehicles for hire.
Lusaka is close to the center of Zambia between the eastern and western bulges. All major routes to the east, west, north and south flow through the city.
The Great North Road comes down from Tanzania via Kapiri Mposhi, and is about 1100km from the Tanzanian border.
The Great East Road from Chipata to Lusaka is 570km.
The road from Livingstone in the south meets up with the Kafue Road and is 470km long. From the Chirundu border with Zimbabwe, the route is well paved and 136km long.
The Mongu road coming in from the west via the Kafue National Park is 591km long.
The domestic railway goes to Livingstone, Kapiri Mposhi and the Copperbelt. The Tanzania Zambia Railway - Tazara - comes down as far as Kapiri Mposhi, where the Zambia Railways train links it to Lusaka. Buses arrive from Harare, Lilongwe, Johannesburg, Livingstone and the Copperbelt.
Lusaka International Airport, which is 14km from the city center, receives most international flights.
Lusaka has an interesting history and culture and there are plenty of sights to see to help make the most of both. As with most African cities, Lusaka’s markets are its beating heart. For the best local wares and wonders, the Sunday Market at the Arcades Shopping Centre on Great East Road is a good place to fill your suitcase with souvenirs before flying home. If it’s atmosphere and cheap local fare that you are after then the Town Centre Market or Lusaka City Market are a better bet and less-touristy, if a little more chaotic. For a spot of suburban safari, head to Munda Wanga Environmental Park or the Kalimba Reptile Park. A little way south of the capital itself, Munda Wanga rehabilitates all sorts of regional wildlife for reintroduction into the wild, including lions and cheetahs. It also has a relaxing pool and braai area. Kalimba, a bit of a trek from town and only accessible with a 4x4, is a great place to view crocodiles and snakes and then grab a beer and a crocodile sandwich. The National Museum is also worth a visit, with a collection of contemporary Zambian paintings and sculpture as well as a more archaeological and ethnographical section upstairs that fills visitors in on some of Zambia’s fascinating cultural history.