Capital City Origins ~ Africa Part 3
First published: Thursday November 25th, 2021
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- Kinshasa. Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Luanda. Angola.
- Windhoek. Namibia.
- Gaborone. Botswana.
- Pretoria. South Africa.
- Bloemfontein. South Africa.
- Cape Town. South Africa.
- Maseru. Lesotho.
- Mbabane. Eswatini.
- Lobamba. Eswatini.
- Maputo. Mozambique.
- Antananarivo. Madagascar.
- Moroni. Comoros.
- Port Louis. Mauritius.
- Victoria. Seychelles.
Welcome, Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Receber, and Welkom to this, our 3rd section of the African list of capital cities. (If I've missed anyone out, I'm sorry, but there isn't enough space to say Hello in every language, I'll try to do some more in other blogs.)
In this episode we shall be travelling through southern Africa, from the Skeleton Coast (that incidently gets it's name from the many whale bones that once littered the shore, but more recently from the many skeletal remains of shipwrecks along the coast), ending up in the island nations of the Indian Ocean.
When I first started this series of blogs I thought to myself, "yeah, should be easy just knock out a couple of blogs in a couple of days". How wrong I was. To be honest, some of the cities have been easy. But others needed a little more research. Then I thought, "rather than just getting the info from Wikipedia, I should collaborate it from an independant source". So it's taking me a few days for each one, but I think it's worth it.
Anyway, let's get on to the next part, and stop waffling on........
Kinshasa. Democratic Republic of Congo.
Originally known as Leopoldville, named after King Leopold II of Belgium, Kinshasa has grown into the most populous city in Africa with a population of around 15 million in 2021.
Following the country's independance in 1960 there was a period where names were changed. Leopoldville became Kinshasa, the name of a village nearby that has become engulfed in the suburbs. The nshasa part of the name means "marsh"
KINSHASA = MARSHLAND
Founded by Portugese explorers in 1576, Luanda is one of the oldest colonial cities in Africa. It was built to serve the slave trade between Africa and Brazil.
It's name comes from the Bantu word lu-ndandu, meaning "sandbank" (lu) and "Valued" (ndandu). This refers to the many small shells that were collected there and used as an early form of currency.
LUANDA = VALUED SANDBANK
Built around a hot spring used by local indigenous peoples, the city grew rapidly after Jonker Afrikaner, Captain of the Orlam, settled there and built a church in 1840.
There are two theories as to where the name Windhoek originated. Most believe it comes from the Afrikaans word wind-hoek meaning "windy corner". Others think that the aforementioned Jonker named it after the Winterhoek Mountains in South Africa, the home of his ancestors. Also the first mention of Windhoek was in an 1844 letter sent by Jonker.
However, I like the windy corner theory and anyone that's been there knows it is a windy place, so....
WINDHOEK = WINDY CORNER
Planned as the capital in the mid 1960's when the Bechuanaland protectorate became an independent nation.The site of the city was decided due to the area having no tribal connections and being close to fresh water. Gaborone was one of the fastest growing cities in Africa.
The city is named after Chief Gaborone of the Tlokwa tribe that lived nearby.
GABORONE = CITY OF CHIEF GABORONE
Pretoria. South Africa.
Our first of three capital cities in South Africa, Pretoria was founded in 1855 by Marthinus Pretorius, who named it after his father, Andries, along the banks of the Apies River (Afrikaans for "Monkey River").
Pretoria is known locally and around South Africa as "Jacaranda City" due to the large number of Jacaranda trees that line the roadsides and in the parks.
PRETORIA = CITY OF PRETORIUS
Bloemfontein. South Africa.
Secondly in the Rainbow Nation's capitals is Bloemfontein. Although many believe the name derives from the Dutch words Bloem and Fontein meaning "flowers" and "fountain", there is a theory that the name comes from an old ox called "Bloem" belonging to the original settlers that was taken by a lion near a fountain. Bit tenuous that one in my mind.
BLOEMFONTEIN = FOUNTAIN OF FLOWERS
Cape Town. South Africa.
Our third South African capital is Cape Town. (Those politicians must clock up some air miles). Nestled beneath the shadow of Table Mountain, Cape Town was named the "Best place in the world to visit" in 2014 by the New York Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers.
Quite simply Cape Town gets its name from its proximity to the Cape of Good Hope.
CAPE TOWN = TOWN ON THE CAPE
Maseru was originally established as a police camp and only became the capital when Basutoland (the former name of Lesotho) became a British Protectorate in 1869. When Lesotho became independent in 1966 Maseru remained as the capital city.
It's name is a Sesuto word meaning "red sandstones".
MASERU = RED SANDSTONES
One of two capitals of Eswatini, Mbabane was founded in 1887 on the Transvaal to Mozambique trade route at the point where it crossed the Mbabane River.
Although the river bears the same name, the city isn't named after it. They are both derived from the name of a local chief, Mbabane Kunene, who lived in the area when the British settlers arrived.
MBABANE = TOWN OF CHIEF MBABANE
Located 16km or 10 miles from the nations other capital, Mbabane, Lobamba is in the district of Hhohho in an area known as the "Valley of Heaven".
It is the seat of the Swazi Royal family and home to the National Museum.
However, unfortunately for us in this quest there is no known etymology. I searched the depths of Google for a couple of hours with no result. I have failed. I'm sorry. If anyone does know, then please leave a comment below and I will be eternally grateful.
LOBAMBA = ?
This capital city was called Lourenco Marques until 1976 when following the previous years independence from Portugal, it was renamed Maputo.
It is situated on the edge of the Indian Ocean in Maputo Bay. Both the bay and the city were named after Chief Maputsi I of the Tembe clan of the Tsonga people.
MAPUTO = CITY OF MAPUTSI
Originally a town called Analamanga meaning "Blue Forest" in the Malagasy language. King Andrianjaka sent 1000 soldiers to capture and guard the site. The city kept the name until King Andriamasinavalona renamed it Antananarivo (City of the Thousand) in honour of the 1000 soldiers.
ANTANANARIVO = CITY OF THE THOUSAND
Our first Indian Ocean nation in this series, Comoros is a group of islands situated at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel.
Moroni is sited on the largest of the three main islands and takes it's name from the Shingazidja word mroni meaning "at the river"
MORONI = AT THE RIVER
Port Louis. Mauritius.
Prior to it's independence in 1968, Mauritius has been in the hands of the Dutch, the French and the British. The Dutch named the area the "Harbour of Tortoises". But it was the French that expanded the port and increased trade. Mauritius became known as Ile de France and the harbour became the rapidly growing settlement of Port Louis. The British just kept the already established name that derived from the French king, Louis XV.
PORT LOUIS = PORT OF LOUIS XV
Like Mauritius, the Seychelles were originally French but then ceded to Britain in 1794.
Victoria was originally called L'Etablissement by the French settlers but renamed in 1841 in honour of Queen Victoria by the British.
VICTORIA = CITY OF QUEEN VICTORIA
Fifteen cities, fourteen etymologies. I'm sorry my friends but Lobamba beat me. I could have made something up I suppose. I could have said that it was named after a wandering lion that saved a child from a fire, or that it was named after a tribal medicine man that cured the chief of rickets, or even that it was named in honour of a Mexican folk song adapted by Ritchie Valens in 1958 and subsequently covered by Los Lobos in 1987. But I would be lying to you and that's not right or ethical. The kind folks that you are, judging by the comments anyway, don't deserve to be lied to. So, the truth is nobody knows the origins of the name Lobamba, or at least if someone does, they haven't told anyone.
Anywho, onwards and upwards. And by upwards I mean up the east coast of Africa. on our next leg of this global journey. Africa Part 4. The final African section will lead us from the former British colony of Rhodesia all the way up to Sudan, calling in to see the gorillas in the mists of Rwanda and the former dictatorship of Idi Amin.
Thanks for reading these blogs and for the comments, they are much appreciated.
And if anyone does know the answer to what shall forever be called the "Lobamba Question" please, please, pretty please, tell me in the comments.
Until next time my friends, kwaheri kwa sasa (goodbye for now in Swahili, at least according to Google translate it is!) Adios Amigos!
I spent at least 2 or 3 hours searching the depths of Google and heading down rabbit holes of many African websites to no avail.
Seriously though, great blog! And no worries about Lobamba, you work hard on these blogs, and that's the only thing that matters :)