Who knew Namibia had a queer scene? When I planned my trip to Namibia, I never expected to meet Namibian queer folk—and party with them! But that's exactly what happened through my couchsurf host in Windhoek, Namibia's capital city.
I stayed with Naville, a friend of a friend in the couchsurf community, while in Windhoek. Naville lives close to the city center. So it was super easy to access and explore shops, restaurants, sights, and bars from his place!
In this post, I share everything I squeezed into 1 full day and night in Windhoek. This included ethically shopping African souvenirs from local tribes and learning about local LGBT rights over ciders at a bar.
Despite limited time, I ended up making some great memories and even greater friends!
Getting To Know Naville
Tracey and Liza dropped me off outside Naville's apartment complex. I waited for him to get home from work at the Ministry of Transportation.
The first thing we did together was drive to the Grove Mall for dinner at Ocean Basket. Ocean Basket is a franchise seafood restaurant that originated in South Africa. While I don't normally eat at chain-type restaurants back home, their food was good! And I am always down to eat at locally-recommended places
I had a combo platter of squid, prawns, and fish—delicious!
As we got to know each other, Naville and I eventually learned we are both queer. I shared information about my girlfriend and he opened up about a guy he was dating at the time. That's when he suggested we meet up with his friends the next night at some of the queer bars in Windhoek.
Now I was excited!
In the meantime, Naville gave me lots of information on what to do while he went to work the next day. He lives just off Windhoek's Central Business District (CBD). I had access to everything I needed as a tourist, from a grocery store for laundry deergent to a post office to mail my postcards!
Monuments & Art Around The CBD
I didn't have to go very far to see interesting art in this area, either. For one, there is the National Art Gallery. While I didn't go inside to view the art there, it is an option to travelers in the area.
Instead, I found the art I saw from the street to be satisfying enough. Down in the town square shopping area, I found 2 great installations.
One was a monument featuring the Gibbon Meteorites.
The other was a driftwood art installment.
A visit to the CBS would me incomplete without a stop to admire the Kudu Statue. This prominent statue of a kudu, one of the largest species of antelope, stands at the corner of John Meinert and Independence Ave. It looms overhead on top of a tall, stone mount.
The kudu statue was a design by a German professor—Fritz Behn from Munich. German colonization is prominent all over southern Africa. I found German influences almost everywhere I went, from the language to the land ownership.
Lunch at Pepata
Naville was able to leave work and meet me at the gallery for lunch. The gallery houses Pepata which is a restaurant that serves traditional Namibian cuisine.
We had a great time reading through the menu. Naville explained to me what certain foods were since the menu was written in native languages. Many of the pictures either made the food unappetizing to me or was not descriptive enough for me to understand.
Usually, I am a pretty adventurous eater when I travel. But, this time, goat head (omutwe), goat feet (omakondo), and mopane worms (omagungu) were off the table for me. There are some things I just can't bring myself to eat if I have other options!
Before the start of meals in Namibia—especially traditional meals—you're expected to wash your hands.
It's ritualistic in the culture but also practical. Namibians often eat traditional foods directly with their hands—so cleaning them before makes sense!
Since I like cider and wine, Naville recommended I try Bernini—a South African sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes. We drank as we shared a traditional Namibian bread/pancake called Omungome-Oshikwiila made from gluten free millet/mahangu flour.
The meal was surprisingly large. I chose the Zambezi Bream which is a type of fish served whole and crispy. The fish was a bit small but the sides made up for it! The spinach greens, tomatoes, and pop made it a filling meal.
I had pop and loved it on my camping trip with Tracey and Liza. I followed local customs and ate the pop with my hands, mixing it in with the rest of the food. This included goat stew, which Naville ordered and shared. The sauce for the goat stew was savory and perfect for dipping the pop!
The Ethics Of Shopping African Craft Markets
Naville went back to work and I headed back to Independence Ave to shop! It was time to find some souvenirs for friends, family, and myself.
Namibian locals and tribes sell their hand-crafted wares in a lot next to the Hilton. There are tents and tables and blankets set up here. It's a tourist stop. And local Namibians often say it's overpriced. But it's expected that you haggle. So I put on my Chiang Mai haggling hat on and went to town!
Side note before delving into this part of my day: I am very careful about whom I take photos of when I travel. I try to respect people’s privacy, especially those from tribes that still dress and live traditionally. I ask before taking a photo and always respect their wishes.
Humans are not objects, no matter how culturally unique and fascinating they are to us as travelers.
Sometimes, my rules about taking photos extends to objects, too. When it comes to people’s possessions, like their art and handcrafted goods, I ask before photographing.
I have many photos of a young college-age girl, Eunice, and her relatives only because they wanted to be photographed. I bought a bunch of items from them and then they were happy to be photographed. In fact, we had a great time posing for photos together. Eunice and I are even connected through social media now!
I highly recommend Eunice and her family’s blanket when you are in Windhoek. They give very fair prices!!
Whenever I go into local markets while traveling, I try to make purchases that are economically responsible and ethically conscious. I want to make sure I am giving to those who need it—not some mass distributor on top.
Yes, much of the stuff I saw are a style that is copied, if not mass produced and distributed all over Southern Africa. But that didn't matter to me so much. Even if the original artist is somewhere in Zimbabwe rather than Namibia—at least the individual seller or family would benefit.
When I inquired at this market, I often had folks saying, "I didn't make it, but I am selling it for the artist who did." Fair enough!
Sometimes the sellers said they were the ones who made the items. For instance, one man came over to polish a small, ivory statue I was buying. The seller called him over because "he made this one so he knows how to fix it."
I also found a group of women from the Himba tribe spread out on a blanket about halfway down the row of craft tents. They extended their red, otjize paste-covered hands filled with bracelets and encouraged me to buy them.
I ended up buying many partly because they were so pushy (i.e., good sales people!). But I also bought from them because I could tell they had actually made them. Several of the girls pushed in, "No look at mine! I made these ones, try this one!" It was as if these women were competing for me to choose their own designs—all completely unique from the next.
At one point, a man approached me with a bunch of keychains in one hand, a tiny blade in another. He asked, "What's your name?" I answered and he immediately started to carve “Rikka” into one of the key chains.
He was carving into a "palm nut"—unique to Namibia. He carved my name right into the nut with incredible precision! I was impressed. And he had ultimately made me feel obligated to buy the souvenir that was now personalized to me. Quite the effective tactic!
Now I consider the keychain to be one of my favorite souvenirs—and gifts! I bought a second palm nut key chain personalized for my girlfriend.
Altogether, I spent a little over $100 on souvenirs—and I probably saved about $50 through haggling. It was a good day for all, I'd say!
Rooftop Views from Independence Museum
Naville met me after I finished haggling. We went for some frozen yogurt and caught up on our evening plans. After changing at his place, we made our way over to the museum for a drink and views of the city.
The National Independence Memorial Museum (NIMMS) has information and exhibits on Namibia's resistance to German colonization. But I didn't get to see the inside, as we were there in the afterhours.
Taking the elevator to the 4th floor, we arrived at the NIMMS Restaurant. We thought we'd sneak some sunset views for free, but they made us purchase drinks first.
This started our night off on the right foot! With martinis in hand, we watched as the sun dipped over Windhoek casting orange hues on the horizon. It was turning into the perfect winter night—chilly although not too chilly.
Dancing and Partying With The Locals
The night began at Chopsi's—a mixed queer-straight bar with a DJ and outdoor space for smoking hookah. We met up with Naville's friend Quinn and her co-worker Jessica. Fun fact, Quinn and Jessica are architects! The are designing what will one day be the tallest building in Windhoek.
We also met up with Muundu, Naville's friend, and the group grew from there as the night progressed.
Inside, TV screens played music videos on silent as a DJ spun Afro beats and Western hip hop favorites. I ordered ciders from the bar and brought them out to a picnic table where the group gathered. Muundu ordered hookah and the group passed the pipe.
The crowd was mixed in every sense. Straight, gay, and queers of every type. As far as I could tell, I was the only White-American there. The crowd was majority Black-Namibian and there were Namibians of White-German descent, too.
We spent several hours at Chopsi's getting to know each other. People had lots of questions for me and I had many for them.
I very quickly felt connected to everyone I was meeting, especially Quinn, Jessica, and Naville. I thought to myself, wow, these are my people and they're here! I could actually imagine a life lived in Windhoek, hanging out with this group regularly. If only LGBTQ Namibians had more rights...
I learned that Namibia has become more widely accepting of LGBTQ people in recent years. It's still illegal for men to have sex with each other (for women it's ok), but the law is not enforced. Same-gender couples cannot legally marry in Namibia, but there's a growing fight to make it legal.
Several organizations have sprouted up since 2010 along with organized pride parades. There's even an organization specifically devoted to transgender Namibians now.
After Chopsi's, we went next door to The Warehouse. This is a theatre but also a bar. The place had really fun artistic lighting and graffiti on the walls. Another DJ was playing there and people were starting to dance.
Gotta love that queer art!
We bumped into a couple at the Warehouse who had taken our photo at NIMMS earlier that night. This was a reminder that Windhoek is still a small city despite being the most populated in Namibia!
Eventually, we ended up back and Chopsi's where I danced the night away with my new Namibian friends.
This was my last night in Namibia and it was so fun! Writing about this last day and the people I met actually makes me a little nostalgic. Every Namibian I met made me feel so warm and welcome. But it was with Naville and his friends that I found my community—over 7,000 miles away!
As my plane took off the next day, I felt very satisfied with my time spent in Namibia. At the same time, and as with so many places I visit, I knew my trip was far too short. I would love to go back to Namibia one day if for no other reason than to visit the amazing people I met!
Now I was on to a new country: South Africa! Stay tuned for many more posts. I can't wait to share stories from my long-awaited Big 5 safari tour and my Pretoria/Johannesburg adventures!