Dreaming of Gaborone

I was once in Gaborone, the somewhat unassuming capital of Botswana. Just for a weekend, really. Everything was closed and the town was very quiet. My young self, well… younger self, was easily bored, so after a few days I hopped on a bus to much livelier Jo’burg across the border.

Jacarandás de Gaborone
Gaborone jacaranda trees, photo by Tude e João

I was left with an impression of a rather dull town and had no particular desire to return. Then I read about Mma Ramotswe and can’t help but feel I just might have missed the more subtle charms of Gaborone.

These aren’t travel books in any traditional sense. Nevertheless, the author creates such a wonderful sense of place, and I always fall in love with the characters. Even the ones I don’t like.

Gaborone has come alive through the eyes of this inimitable, traditionally built lady detective who so clearly loves her country. I’m eager to return and have a fresh look: I want to sit on the terrace of the President Hotel, drink bush tea and watch life as it passes by. If I sit there long enough, I might see all of Botswana amble past. Even cows.

Gaborone could just have been a city in South Africa somewhere...
Botswana is cattle country. Photo by Smath.

I want to walk along Zebra Drive – and even though Mma Ramotswe won’t be sitting outside her house with a cuppa, who knows… another woman – traditionally built, maybe – will sit in her garden, willing to talk to a curious stranger walking past. Perhaps with jacaranda trees in her garden…

I’d like to window shop for shoes in Riverwalk Shopping Centre, thinking which inappropriate pair would appeal to the otherwise strict Mma Makutsi, associate detective. I’d like to bargain for souvenirs at the many stalls along the Mall, I’d like to meander through the tree-lined Village, the old part of town.

 

Cape Town and the Western Cape province is brimming with wonderful things to see and do. It’s also full of evocative experiences, of provocation and sadness. I’ve walked through the heartbreaking, but not altogether discouraging living conditions of Imizamo Yethu township, I’ve learned about canned hunting and I’ve seen the cell of the world’s most famous inmate, prisoner 466/64. I’ve also seen the spectacular scenery of the Cape Peninsula, learned of a worthwhile cheetah rescue project, and I’ve seen penguins. I’ll get back to all this when I’m back.

But for now, I simply wanted to talk a little bit about Botswana.

Have you been in Gaborone – or elsewhere in Botswana?

26 Responses to “Dreaming of Gaborone”

  1. ItalianNotes 22 January 2013 1456 #

    Never heard of Gaborone, but you inspired me to follow Mma Ramotswe into the Ladies Detective Bureau. Thanks:)
    ItalianNotes recently posted..A Palermo market taste of the Orient

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 1651 #

      Not the most famous of capitals, Gaborone.

  2. Kate 22 January 2013 1844 #

    oh those trees. So beautiful! Your post reminds me that not everything needs to be over the top to be amazing. Why do I always forget to savor the small things? I’ll have to pick up some of those books
    Kate recently posted..The Swarovski Kristallwelten Museum – Like being inside of a giant crystal

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 1652 #

      Very true. There’s often a quieter beauty that sometimes take a little longer to discover – and appreciate.

  3. Leigh 22 January 2013 2315 #

    I missed Gaborone as it was Maun I flew into (with a student pilot at the controls) and out of. But I’m like you and I love those books so would happily go back to try and absorb the essence of the place.
    Leigh recently posted..A Photo Journey Through the Magdalen Islands in Quebec

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 1653 #

      Let’s meet and have tea on the verandah of President hotel, Leigh.

  4. Ana O 22 January 2013 2346 #

    Nope, never. But I’d love to see those jacaranda tress in full bloom. I love them and remind me of Buenos AIres, funnily enough!
    Ana O recently posted..Abridged travel guide to Montevideo [Uruguay]

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 1654 #

      Both nearing the Antarctic, so perhaps not so surprising there’s similar flora.

  5. Cathy Sweeney 23 January 2013 0029 #

    I’ve never been in Botswana, but you have given me cause to think about Gabarone, a place that has not really crossed my mind. Lovely post.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..A Sweeney First: Zip-Lining in Mazatlan

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 1655 #

      Thanks, Cathy :)

  6. Linda 23 January 2013 1111 #

    Those books really inspired me to want to go to Botswana too but haven’t made it yet. I love that they make the place seem “real” where people do the ordinary things you mention (even though they are detective stories!). So often what we see from Africa are the wonderful wildlife pictures, or, alternatively the stories of violence or famine, and it all makes the continent seem rather “unreal.”

    Oh and that jacaranda – stunning. We have them here in the Canary Islands, but I’ve never seen them flowering in such profusion!
    Linda recently posted..2012: Postcards to Myself

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 1656 #

      Beautiful aren’t they? Will definitely look for jacaranda trees when I’m in the Canary Islands next.

  7. Andrea 25 January 2013 1530 #

    I haven’t been but loving those colourful blooms!
    Andrea recently posted..A Day Visit To Philadelphia

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 January 2013 2048 #

      Aren’t they gorgeous, the jacarandas…

  8. Lisa 26 January 2013 0328 #

    Gaborone, Botswana is another place that I would like to visit thanks to Alexander McCall Smith. Love the first photo – I had no idea what a jacaranda tree looked like and that one is so beautiful – I can almost smell the blossoms!
    Lisa recently posted..Kindred Spirits – Our Home Away From Home on PEI

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 January 2013 2049 #

      We should meet there some time, Lisa: have tea, people-watch, and take it easy.

  9. Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home 27 January 2013 1950 #

    I know about the HBO series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, but I didn’t read the books yet. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Botswana, but I would love to go there :)
    Izy Berry – The Wrong Way Home recently posted..Where I Want To Go

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 January 2013 2052 #

      The series is quite good and colourful, too – gives a good (although a more superficial) impression of Botswana.

  10. Stuart 19 June 2013 1816 #

    Having recently moved to ‘Gabs’ on a 6 month assignment I found myself directed to your blog when I googled ‘why is it so easy to fall in love with Gaborone?’ (Since I have lived in many other more well known cities). The mere fact that I as googling this says a lot about the place. This is despite currently sitting in darkness due to one of he regular electricity outages.

    Because of this we are all outside on our balconies chatting to our neighbours (who would otherwise be in front of TVs).
    Perhaps this partly answers my google search. It probably has a lot to do with the friendly, quirky people.

    The astonishing natural beauty also helps…

    Its strange, whilst I would highly recommend paying Gaborone a visit, there is no obvious event or significant landmark that I would suggest you see. Instead I would recommend you come to experience the people, their way of life and the land.

    I hope some of my rambling makes sense.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 June 2013 1904 #

      That’s a beautiful sentiment, Stuart. Slow-travel Gaborone, focus on the people – lovely!

  11. Stefanie 24 June 2013 2049 #

    I am living in Gaborone, Gabs, since 6 years and I enjoyed almost every day. It is a quiet capital with approx 200.000 inhabitants. We know each other, like a village in Germany. We meet each other on Partys, on the farmers markets and music events.

    We have a most wonderful potter from Germany, Rika, who is doing amazing things. My children go to Westwood International school and they love it.

    The whether can be extrem, now we are in winter with up to minus 8 degrees in Notwane. December it will be really hot, hot.

    In the moment we are going towards a drouth, we are not allowed to water our gardens anymore. But do you know, that the Kalahari covers 80% of Botswana.

    In 4 weeks we are leaving Botswana for Zambia. I will miss my Gaborone. I have my own horse and very good friends to leave behind.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 June 2013 1235 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Stefanie – and thanks for your insights into Gaborone life. Sounds so lovely and peaceful from your description.

      I just knew I must have missed something during my short stay. And that’s probably just it, Gaborone isn’t a place one only stays for a short time. It sounds like it’s the kind of place that grows on you, little by little, until like you, one is sad to leave.

  12. fred mucai 15 August 2013 1508 #

    I have been to Gaborone or “Gabs” as it is fondly referred to by the residents. It is a fairly busy city during the week but becomes quiet over the weekend. The action at this time is in the villages. I have stayed in Gabane and Kanye and found the people very laid back and quite content to enjoy their cold beers over braais. Botswana is a place that is very hot and uncomfortable outdoors. But i enjoyed my stay because there is hardly any crime.

  13. Diana Phyton Swaine 17 July 2014 1029 #

    I just heard about Gaborone, thanks to you Sophie. :)
    I like buy shoes, would you tell me where is Riverwalk Shopping Centre? Maybe map or the address?
    Thanks.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 July 2014 1151 #

      Riverwalk is on Tlokweng Road. I hear they have a good selection of shoes :)

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