People of Namibia

Despite its low population density Namibia is home to a diversity of unique cultures. The 13 distinct population groups range from some of Namibia’s oldest inhabitants to tribes that moved into the country several hundred years ago and descendants of colonialists and groups of mixed backgrounds.

Namibia’s population of 2.5 million inhabits a vast area of 824 269 km². Most of the country’s desert or semi-desert areas are largely uninhabited. The Khomas Region around Windhoek and the more fertile regions in the north make up the majority of the population. Windhoek is Namibia’s hub for transport, business and tourism and offers a vibrant mix of cultures. The influence of German colonial rule is still present in Windhoek, but its population is a vibrant mix of almost all of Namibia’s population groups: Owambo, Kavango, Herero, Damara, Caprivians, Nama, San, Coloureds and Europeans. The suburb 10km north of the city centre, Katutura, was founded as a township under the apartheid rule and now is a lively suburb with a turbulent history.

The traditional land of the Owambo people north of Etosha carries a large percentage of Namibia’s population. The area is made up of the Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions. The two biggest towns in the area, Oshakati and Ondangwa, have the chaotic charm of African urban centres. Most of the people here, however, live in rural areas, where water from the Angolan highland allows for subsistence farming.

Desolate areas such as the Kunene Region or the northern Kalahari can provide some of the most interesting cultural experiences. In the Kunene Region the statuesque and graceful Himba are largely untouched by Western culture. These semi-nomadic pastoralists are easily recognized by their ochre-coloured skin and elaborate hairstyles.

The Kalahari Desert in the east of Namibia is the traditional home of Namibia’s oldest inhabitants, the San. Most of these hunter-gatherers have now assimilated into a western lifestyle, but a few San still practice their traditional lifestyle and hunting techniques. The living museums of the Ju/’Hoansi-San is the best places to witness the San’s anciet knowledge and traditions.