Places to visit
Kabwata Cultural Centre
On Burma Road, just west of Jacaranda Road, are the rondavels of the Kabwata Cultural Village. These are all that remain of 300 similar huts, which were built in the 1930s and '40s by the colonial government to house Lusaka's black labour force. They were designed with just one room, to house single men, whose families were expected to remain in the rural areas and rather than become permanent urban settlers.
Between '71 and '73 the government demolished most of them to construct the flats now seen nearby. Fortunately, in 1974, 43 rondavels were saved and turned into a 'cultural centre' – a base where artists from all over Zambia could live and work. The aim was to preserve the country's cultural heritage.
Sadly, with little money spent on it, the centre has gradually crumbled. It probably remains the city's best spot for buying hand-carved crafts and curios. Many of the rondavels, set back a little from the road, shelter stone- and wood-carvers. Large wooden hippos (around Kw45,000) are cheaper than equivalent carvings at the craft centre near Victoria Falls in Livingstone. The prices and quality of the carvings are good, and sometimes tribal dances are held here at 15.00 on Sundays during the winter. But the centre is in a poor state of repair.
Recently the German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ) has got together with the country's Tourism Council and hatched plans to upgrade and revitalise the centre. These include various new homesteads to represent the country's diverse ethnic groups, plus a craft shop, a restaurant serving traditional and other food, and even a 500-seater amphitheatre where visitors can watch traditional dances. Ideas of accommodation for visitors to stay overnight have even been mooted. Let's hope it all happens.
Off Independence Avenue, Lusaka National Museum officially opened its doors to the public in October 1996, more than ten years after its inception. It was to have been part of the UNIP Party complex on Independence Avenue but, after Kaunda's electoral defeat in 1991, the plans came to nought and the complex remained an unfinished eyesore until the government stepped in.
The museum houses several galleries on two storeys. On the ground floor is an art gallery displaying works of contemporary Zambian painters and sculptors. This gallery is also where short-term exhibits take place, as well as occasional special functions like book launches or film premieres (for details check the local press).
Upstairs are the archaeology and ethnography sections, the political history rooms, the children's corner and a village model. Of this the ethnography section is probably the most interesting, with exhibits of the material culture of various Zambian ethnic groups, including musical instruments, pottery and basket
work, and a popular display of artefacts relating to witchcraft and initiation ceremonies. By contrast, the archaeology section is very small, essentially showing only a cast of 'Broken Hill Man', Zambia's contribution to early hominid finds.
The political-history rooms feature displays on colonial, independence-era and present-day leaders, with the emphasis on Kaunda's liberation struggle. There is also a children's corner where artwork by children is displayed. In short, it's all well worth a visit.
Open: daily 09.00–16.30, except Christmas and New Year's Days. Entry fee: US$2 adults, US$1 children, Kw1,000 nationals.
This memorial to fallen freedom fighters is on Independence Avenue, near the National Museum. The statue, of a man breaking his chains, symbolises Zambia's liberation from the colonial yoke.
Henry Tayali Art Centre
In the middle of the agricultural showgrounds, opposite Manda Hill shopping centre, this interesting art gallery (Tel: 01 254541) has permanent as well as changing exhibitions of contemporary Zambian art. Items on display are for sale, at prices negotiated with the artist. The centre is probably the best place in Lusaka from which to buy paintings, and sometimes carvings and sculptures.
Open: 09.00–12.00, 14.00–16.00 (or whenever the artists turn up), closed Sat–Sun. Entry free.
Namwane Art Gallery
Those interested in Zambian painting and sculpture might also try the Namwane Art Gallery (tel: 096 750694), which is about 15km from the centre of Lusaka on Leopards Hill Road, just past the American School. Expect oil paintings by prominent Zambian artists as well as watercolours, wood and stone carvings, and some delicate ceramics by over 150 Zambian artists. There are also pieces from other African artists.
Open: Tue–Fri 09.00–12.00, 14.00–16.30; Sat and Sun 09.00–12.00; closed Mon
National Assembly buildings
Guided tours are organised around the National Assembly, on Nangwenya Road (off Addis Ababa Drive), on the last Thursday of the month.
Open: normally Friday afternoons only
Situated at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, this displays some interesting, if slightly unimaginative, exhibits on the country's struggle for independence; tel: 228805.
Open: daily, Mon–Fri 09.00–16.30. Admission free
Known more formally as the Agricultural Society Showgrounds, this is an enclosed area on the south side of the Great East Road, just past the Manda Hill complex.
This area has its own network of little roads which, once a year, fill to overflowing with visitors to stalls and displays for an annual exhibition of many aspects of Zambian industry and commerce. For most of the rest of the year it's quieter and reduces to an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and businesses, from Barclays Bank to a canine vet and a primary school to fast-food outlets. Note that many of its entrances and exits close around sunset.
Zintu Community Museum
In its building on Panganini Road, the museum houses a good cultural exhibition containing arts and crafts from all over the country, including masks and wooden statues. Tel: 223183, 238511.
Open: daily, Mon–Fri 09.00–16.30, Sat 09.00–13.00. Admission freeOutside the city
Kalimba Reptile Park
Kalimba (tel: 233272, 095 701080) is gradually becoming worth the journey. It now has good displays of crocodiles, snakes, chameleons and tortoises, including the rare African slender-nosed crocodile, Crocodilus cataphractus. These occur from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to West Africa, but are endangered because of the degradation of their habitat and because they are hunted for food in the DRC. In Zambia, cataphractus are found only in the Luapula River system, where they were (erroneously) thought to be extinct until recently.
Kalimba also has fishing ponds for anglers, stocked with bream, as well as crazy golf, a children's playground and volleyball court. Drinks and snacks are available, and I'm sad to record that Kalimba's fastest-selling burgers are croc-burgers. Chalets and a camping site are planned for the future.
To get there, head out of town on the Great East Road, then take a left on to District Road at the Caltex station, about 1km before the Chelston Water Tower. This heads towards the east side of Ngwerere. Follow this road, the D564, about 11km to a T-junction, turn right and park about 1km later on the right.
Open: daily, 09.00–17.30. Rates: adults Kw15,000, children Kw8,000
Munda Wanga Environmental Park
About 20 minutes' drive from the centre of town, in the Chilanga area, Munda Wanga (tel: 01 278456; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) was once the showpiece of Lusaka. To get there, take the Kafue Road south out of the city for about 15km. The park is on the right, but is poorly signposted; if you get to the Night Jar, you've gone too far. Its recent history has been depressing, but following privatisation in 1998, both the zoo and the botanical gardens have been revitalised with the help of volunteer workers. Local sponsors are helping to achieve the park's aim to specialise in native Zambian species, housed in humane open enclosures themed to their natural environment – wetlands, open plains, etc. Wild dogs, bushpigs, and 'Phoenix' the baby elephant are among the most popular attractions, as well as – albeit rather less appropriately – a tiger and a bear. At weekends, feeding time at 14.00 is particularly popular – though it's suggested that you should arrive at 12.00 to take full advantage of this. There's an educational centre for local schoolchildren, and, for visitors who have no time to travel to one of the national parks, this is one way to see the wide variety of Zambian fauna.
Alongside the animal park, the botanical gardens have been redeveloped with an interpretation centre, and will eventually be extended to include an indigenous forest. Now, once again, the botanical gardens are a super venue for a picnic (drinks and snacks are available) or a laze in the sun. For the future, there are ambitious plans to open a theme park with water-game and adventure playgrounds.
Open: daily, 08.00–17.00. Rates: adults US$2.50, children US$1.25