Shopping in Windhoek is easy and fun, and being able to park very near to the shops, and even on Independence Avenue, makes it all the easier if you've a car. However, if you want something specific, then phone around first – it's much quicker than scouring the city by foot or car.
Books and music
Imported books are generally expensive in Namibia, and even those published locally are subject to a heavy sales tax. But if you want something specific on Namibia, then often you'll get titles here which are difficult to find abroad. The best places to look are:
CNA Gustav Voigts Centre, 129 Independence Av. A large department store with a section on the latest titles. Very mainstream.Der Bücherkeller
Carl List House, Fidel Castro (formerly Peter Müller) St, PO Box 1074; tel: 061 231615; fax: 061 236164. Recently under new management, and now linked to Swakopmund Buchhandlung, this large shop has plans to broaden its stock considerably from the current selection, which is dominated by novels and coffee-table books, but with some Namibia-specific natural history books. Many of the books are in German, but there's a reasonable selection in English.Onganda Y'Omambo Books
On the north of Post Street Mall (tel: 061 235796; fax: 061 235278), this shop has a wide selection of books (new and secondhand), with a particularly good selection both on Namibian history and culture, and by Namibian authors.RC Bookshop
Bülow St (corner of Stubel St). This bookshop is in front of St Mary's Cathedral and sells mainly religious books. It also has a small coffee bar.Uncle Spike's Book Exchange
Garten St, on the corner of Tal St (tel: 061 226722). Has a more eclectic range. Good for swapping paperbacks.Windhoek Book
Den Frans Indongo Gardens, Bülow St, tel: 061 239976
Zum Bücherwurm 11 Kaiserkrone; tel/fax: 061 255885; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Although this specialises in German books, there's a small but interesting selection of books on Namibia in English.
For a selection of African music CDs, try Universal Sounds next to Le Bistro (tel: 061 227037).
Cameras, film and optics
Most of the main brands of film are now available in Windhoek, including a range of slide film. Ideally, buy film from the specialists in Windhoek, rather than waiting until you're at a remote game lodge, whose limited film supplies are out-of-date, having been on a hot shelf for years. If you're looking for anything outside the 100/200/400 ISO range, or have very specific needs, then bring all your own supplies with you.
Similarly, most popular cameras can be found here, though they are often more expensive than they would be in Europe or the US. There are numerous places that will develop your snaps – often within the hour – or sell you a film, but Windhoek's best specialists are:Nitzsche-Reiter
at the front of the Sanlam Centre, on Independence Av; tel: 061 231116Photo World
246 Independence Av, opposite Bülow St; tel: 061 223223Gerhard Botha
Independence Av, opposite Sardinia Restaurant; tel: 061 235551
Camping kitTo rent
It is easy to arrange to hire camping kit in Windhoek, provided that you can return it there at the end of your trip. Both the following companies have a comprehensive range, from tents and portable toilets to full 'kitchen packs', gaslights and jerry cans. They are best contacted at least a month in advance, and can then arrange for a pack incorporating what you want to be ready when you arrive. The minimum rental period is three days. They usually request a 50% deposit to confirm the order, with full payment due on collection of equipment. Camping Hire Namibia
78 Malcolm Spence St, Olympia, PO Box 80029, Windhoek; tel: 061 251592 or tel/fax: 061 252995; email: email@example.com; web: http://natron.net/tour/camping/hired.html. Payment may be made either in cash or by credit card (Visa or MasterCard).Adventure Camping Hire
20 Beethoven St, PO Box 20179, Windhoek; tel: 061 242478; fax: 061 223292; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.natron.net/tour/adventureTo buy
If you need to buy camping kit in Namibia, then Windhoek has the best choice. Items from South Africa are widely available, but kit from Europe or the US is harder to find. The best places are:Safari Den
In the middle of Post Street Mall.
In their plush shop they've binoculars, knives (including Swiss Army and Leatherman tools), and a useful range of tents, sleeping bags and other camping kit. Their main branch is at 20 Bessemer St (tel: 061 231934), in the southern industrial area.Trappers Trading
Co Wernhil Park, PO Box 9953; tel: 061 223136. Has an outlet on the mall, close to Safari Den. It's good for practical bush wear – cotton clothes are cheaper here than Europe, and the quality's reasonable though rarely excellent. Also has a small shop at the Windhoek Country Club Hotel (tel: 061 233749).Safariland (Holtz)
Gustav Voigts Centre, 129 Independence Av, PO Box 421, Windhoek; tel: 061 235941. Has a similar variety of safari and bush wear.Cymot
60 Mandume Ndemufayo Av; tel: 061 234131; fax: 061 234921; email: email@example.com; web: www.cymot.com.na. Cymot get bigger every year, and their expanding range is the best around: everything from spare parts for cars (tel: 061 226242), to a good range of cycles and spares (tel: 061 236536), to tents and outdoor equipment. Le Trip
At the bottom of the Wernhil Park Centre; tel/fax: 061 233499. They have roof-tents and bicycle equipment, and also the invaluable polystyrene containers that cost only a few dollars, but keep canned drinks refreshingly cold.Cape Union Mart
Maerua Park Mall; tel: 061 220424. Has a wide range of camping equipment, safari clothes and shoes.
Crafts and curios
The Post Street Mall normally hosts one of the capital's largest craft and curio displays, as street traders set out their wares on blankets in front of the shops. Similarly, sellers of basketwork and carvings can usually be found on Fidel Castro (Peter Müller) St near the Grab-a-phone kiosk, which is almost opposite the Kalahari Sands on Independence Avenue. There is also a wide variety of commercial craft shops in the centre of town, all aiming at tourists and often presenting similar crafts in a more upmarket setting, with higher prices.Namibia Craft Centre
40 Tal St (next to the Warehouse Theatre); tel: 061 242 2222; fax: 061 221 1273
Well worth a visit. This houses the Omba Gallery, with regular exhibitions of Namibian and other African art, a café and a number of stalls selling different arts and crafts including paintings, sculptures, designs in copper, hand-painted fabrics, jewellery and much else. Many of the exhibitors are members of NACOBTA – the Namibia Community-Based Tourism Association – that was founded in 1995 with the aim of improving living standards among Namibia's rural communities. Members welcome visitors to their sites without advance notice. For details, contact them direct (PO Box 86099, Windhoek; tel: 061 250558; fax: 061 222647; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.nacobta.com.na).
Open: Mon–Fri 09.00–17.30, Sat 09.00–13.30.Master Weavers
Wernhil Park shopping centre, PO Box 21886; tel: 061 221895
Offer a fine variety of handmade rugs for sale, though many visitors buy these direct from the factories in Swakopmund or Lüderitz. Penduka Craft Co-operative
tel: 061 257210; email: email@example.com. Out beyond Katutura, overlooking Goreangab Dam, this co-operative employs local women in a village setting to produce a range of crafts, including textiles and baskets. To get there, follow Independence Avenue north through Katutura, cross over Otjomuise, then bear left on to Green Mountain Dam. The centre is down a dirt track to the left. Alternatively, join one of the half-day excursions that cover this area (see page 159). Visitors may watch crafts being made, and there is a shop on site.
Given the incredible minerals and precious stones that are mined in Namibia, it's a wonder that there aren't better gemstones for sale as curios. Sadly many of the agates and semi-precious stones seen in curio shops on Independence Avenue are imported from as far as Brazil.
The exception to the rule is House of Gems
(tel: 061 225202; fax: 061 228915). Tucked away at 131 Stübel Street, near John Meinert Street, it is run by Sid Peters (one of the country's leading gemmologists). It is a real collector's place, packed with original bits and pieces. Even if you're not buying, it is worth visiting. Some of the stones are from Sid's own tourmaline mines (claimed to produce the world's best tourmaline). Here you can see them sorted, cut, faceted and polished on the premises.
Windhoek is a good place to buy leatherwork. You'll see lots of ostrich, game and karakul leathers. Don't expect any give-aways, but if you know what you want then there are good deals to be had. The standard varies greatly; you will find some local work aiming at export markets of a very high standard, while other products are not so good. As with anywhere, shop around. The highest-quality sources are in the centre of town, like Pelzhaus
on Independence Avenue, over the road from the main post office, and Nakara
kul leathers, near Gathemann Restaurant on Independence Avenue. (Previously this was Swakara, for South West African karakul leathers!)
It's also worth visiting the Okapuka Tannery
, about 20km north of Windhoek. To find it, take the main road to Okahandja, then turn off at the signs for Elisenheim, and follow this road for about 6km.
Food and drink
The age of the supermarket has certainly reached Namibia, though there remain some good small food shops around town. If you are stocking up for a long trip into the bush, then seek out the best large stores. Most central is Checkers
in the basement of the Gustav Voigts centre on Independence Avenue – the car park is behind the Kalahari Sands Hotel (see page 122). A little further away is Shoprite
on Independence Avenue itself, almost opposite the information centre. Further out of town, but most convenient for drivers, are the large supermarket in the new Game
shopping centre at the junction of Bismarck and Hochland Roads, and Checkers at Maerua Park Mall
. For those staying at Klein Windhoek, the most convenient store is probably OK Foods in the Hidas Centre
, at the junction of Sam Nujoma and Nelson Mandela.
There are numerous pharmacies throughout the city, many of them open seven days a week, and most with a range of goods and drugs that is equal to anything in western Europe or the USA. The pharmacy in the Erkrathus Building on Independence Avenue is on 24-hour call, tel: 081 129 4422.