This is a small town just off the road from Kasama to Mpulungu. It has a BP station, a few shops, several banks and a fairly cool, relaxed air. The road to Mpulungu descends into the merciless heat of the rift valley beyond here – so enjoy the relative cool whilst you can.
Mbala is notable for the Moto Moto museum, described below, which is one of the country's best museums and well worth stopping for.
Where to stay
Aside from an old government resthouse, there are three options here. Christy Inn is new and has been recommended, but I have no other information about it! The town's two older places are:Arms Hotel
(10 twin rooms and 2 single rooms) PO Box 420161, Mbala; tel: 04 450585
This used to be called the Abercorn Arms, but changed its name when the town became Mbala instead of Abercorn. It is in the centre of town on the main road, on the right just after the BP fuel station. If you stay here then watch your belongings very carefully, as I have had a report that it is not safe.
The facilities are very basic indeed, and note that the telephone number above also covers for the 'bar and bottle stall' … so at least you're assured of a drink here. Lunches and dinners are served. They're very simple Zambian fare – Kw3,500 for nshima and chicken, Kw3,000 for nshima and meat, Kw2,000 for nshima and fish.New Grasshopper Inn
(14 rooms) PO Box 420093, Mbala; tel: 04 450589, 450075 or 450403
Not to be outdone in name-changes by the Arms Hotel, the New Grasshopper used to be merely the Grasshopper Inn. It has recently had its bar area enlarged and more rooms built for conference delegates, and so is recommended as the best option in town.
Moto Moto Museum
This museum opened in 1974 and has an excellent reputation as perhaps the best place in the country for Bemba history and artefacts. It was originally assembled by a missionary stationed here, Father Corbell, who amassed a very extensive collection of tools, craft instruments, and exhibits connected to traditional ceremonies and witchcraft. These have been housed with the help of some aid money, and the museum is now well signposted just outside Mbala on the north side. The locals know it very well.
Open 09.00–16.45 every day except Christmas. Entry: US$10 per person