Lusaka is a gracious and understated mixture of old and new. The best thing about Lusaka is that it guards its treasures from the masses but offers those visitors with open minds and hearts a relaxing respite during a hectic schedule. Exactly because Lusaka does not see itself as touristy and does not hunt tourist money, you will get the real deal.
Contrary to the general perception, there is lots to see, experience and love in the Zambian capital.
If you have only a few hours in Lusaka before leaving and wish to experience both traditional and sophisticated Zambia in one go, head for Gallery 37d in Kabulonga. Here traditional and modern meet under one roof. Have a light meal, an excellent cup of coffee, enjoy art in peace and quiet away from busy city life. And if you wish to take home an exceptional piece of Zambia, 37d won’t let you down.
The gallery is designed around century old trees, because the owners know that trees span generations and will be here long after we are gone. The exhibition space wraps around a wild jasmine and a frangipani tree, the branches giving shelter from the sun and the perfect background for displaying art and having a bite to eat. The establishment furthermore supports and houses the stART Foundation, which offers art programs, traditional dancing and many fun activities for underprivileged children.
37D is an art gallery, restaurant, yoga studio and jewelry shop (Jagoda) all in one.
For those curious souls who wish to get up close and personal with local life, there is no better place than Kalingalinga. This area is located a stone’s throw from the big shopping centres. It’s best to get a local to show you around though. Kalingalinga is a term used to describe a person that moves from place to place. Today Kalingalinga is the hub of Lusaka’s small businesses where you can buy anything from an evening dress to a small charcoal stove. Numerous tailors will create a beautiful piece for you, fix a hem, stitch a top and chat happily while the sewing machine is humming away.
It is an area where everyday people have become movers and shakers and entrepreneurs do their own thing. Name it, locals sell it – from plants and gardening tools, to furniture, fruit to fabrics. They’ll also fix anything – from cars to TVs.
Lusaka has a near obsession with sculptures. And they pop up in the most unexpected places, original, raw from the heart. One can buy an authentic piece at a reasonable price. Even oddly shaped pieces will be packed in a wink if you wish to fly them out.
It sometimes seems as if Zambian sculptors might have invented the concept of recycling. They use anything from plastic to coke tins, bicycle and car parts, rusted wires, dry branches and tires. They celebrate women, literature and life in their creations. At the Showgrounds is Henry Tayali Gallery where Zambian artists display their work. You might even meet an artist tinkering away on a new creation.
If you have a whole day to explore, consider Leopards Hill, one of Lusaka’s in vogue neighbourhoods. Coffee shops and restaurants are spread out along the main road and on the many gravel turn-offs: Buzz Café, The Pantry, The Deli, Il Portico and Zambean Coffee Company among them. You can have sushi or biltong, buy antiques or go horse riding.
Mary’s Bookshop offers second hand literary gems for next to nothing. Blue Hill has table linen and clothes made from Indian cloth and Blue Leopard has trendy handbags made from recycled plastic. The Monkey Pools area in Mukamunya Estate allows one to experience glorious nature without going far out of the city. Do note, signage in Leopards Hill is often small or absent; best to ask for directions.
Yoga classes are offered in various locations all over town. These yoga classes are for novices as well as experienced yogis and are held in an unthreatening environment. There are however strict rules to stick to in Towani Clarke’s classes. She regularly reminds the class: “No frowning. No judgement.”
All gear is provided, mats, blocks and soft blankies if chilly. It’s ideal to revitalise body and mind after a tiring flight. Check out Kuthuta Yoga on Facebook.
Kutowa, a Tumbuka word, means to be so beautiful you shine. The owner-cum-designer started Kutowa ten years ago when she could not find the type of clothes that reflected who she is. Her chitenge outfits are contemporary with an African flavor. She uses chitenge, sometimes mixed with plain fabric, to create everyday wear. These afro chic outfits state very clearly: the world is a richer and brighter place thanks to African fashion. Check Kutowa’s Facebook page.
The Dutch Market
Every last Saturday of the month a community market is held at the Dutch Reformed Church in Kabulonga. This is a get-together for coffee and homemade cake for Lusaka residents of all countries and creeds, a meeting place under the trees. Join the locals, get an update on where to go and what to do.
There are a hundred or more stalls, many of the vendors being regulars at the city’s street markets. But a fair number of craft makers and artists from outside Lusaka also exhibit here. Many ethnic groups and nationalities offer their traditional dishes – Zambian, Turkish, Chinese and South African included. You can find a souvenir, organic face cream or a quiche for lunch.
Living in a global village has many advantages, but one of the drawbacks certainly is that the same franchises pop up from Cairo to Cape Town. They may have good food but very little individuality. Try the following two restaurants, which are not part of any international chain eatery:
- Three Trees on Addis Ababa Road – carnivore or vegetarian, you will find something to your taste. Try the baked sweet potato with feta and herbs.
- Rootz is on Kwacha Road, off the busy track. Their specialty is a collection of herbal teas with the ingredients for each tea listed. Light meals can be ordered in the peaceful garden with a pool
Aylmer May Cemetery
Celebrate love in the tiny chapel at Aylmer May Cemetery on Lagos Road. Although the Foundation responsible for this heritage site was named after a much loved and appreciated medical doctor, it is the story of a young bride that grips the heart.
Designed as a labyrinth with low hedges, the heart of the cemetery is the little Gothic-style chapel erected over the grave of Audrey Murray (née O’Brien). Precisely three months after their marriage, and soon after their arrival in Kalomo, Audrey suffered a burst appendix. Due to poor medical facilities, she died aged 25. Heartbroken, Captain Thomas Murray had the chapel built in her memory. He never remarried and died twelve years later in Livingstone. Requests have previously been made for assistance in maintaining his neglected grave.
The Aylmer May Cemetery sits on the same land as Lechwe Trust Gallery and popular restaurant #Social. You can start your afternoon at the gallery and then head to #Social, which is open 24 hours a day. Do note, the gallery is closed on Mondays.