Dreaming of Gaborone

2017-11-05T01:38:25+00:0022 January 2013|books & films, Botswana, Travel writing|

As I write this, I’m sitting on the terrace of Ashanti Guesthouse in Cape Town, thinking about Botswana.

I was once in Gaborone, Botswana’s somewhat unassuming capital. 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.

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.


During the last few days, I’ve played in Cape Town and surrounds. 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 hung around penguins. I’ll tell you about all of that later.

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

Have you been in Gaborone – or elsewhere in Botswana?

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  1. ItalianNotes 22 January 2013 at 1456 - Reply

    Never heard of Gaborone, but you inspired me to follow Mma Ramotswe into the Ladies Detective Bureau. Thanks:)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 at 1651 - Reply

      Not the most famous of capitals, Gaborone.

  2. Kate 22 January 2013 at 1844 - Reply

    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

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 at 1652 - Reply

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

  3. Leigh 22 January 2013 at 2315 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 at 1653 - Reply

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

  4. Ana O 22 January 2013 at 2346 - Reply

    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!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 at 1654 - Reply

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

  5. Cathy Sweeney 23 January 2013 at 0029 - Reply

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 at 1655 - Reply

      Thanks, Cathy 🙂

  6. Linda 23 January 2013 at 1111 - Reply

    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!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 January 2013 at 1656 - Reply

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

  7. Andrea 25 January 2013 at 1530 - Reply

    I haven’t been but loving those colourful blooms!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 January 2013 at 2048 - Reply

      Aren’t they gorgeous, the jacarandas…

  8. Lisa 26 January 2013 at 0328 - Reply

    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!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 January 2013 at 2049 - Reply

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

  9. LandLopers Picks of the Week 26 January 2013 at 0555 - Reply

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  10. 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 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 30 January 2013 at 2052 - Reply

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

  11. Stuart 19 June 2013 at 1816 - Reply

    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 19 June 2013 at 1904 - Reply

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

  12. Stefanie 24 June 2013 at 2049 - Reply

    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 25 June 2013 at 1235 - Reply

      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.

  13. fred mucai 15 August 2013 at 1508 - Reply

    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.

  14. Diana Phyton Swaine 17 July 2014 at 1029 - Reply

    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?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 18 July 2014 at 1151 - Reply

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

  15. Eunice 6 December 2017 at 1413 - Reply

    The thing is the charm of Botswana isn’t in Gaborone- it’s in the less develop towns like Maun and Kasane.
    I would advise you to give Botswana as second chance and explore it differently. Fly directly from the Joburg to Maun (the entrance to the Okavango Delta – a world heritage site) or Kasane- there’s a lot of offer for different travelers; high-end accommodation, middle range, budget or self-drive.
    As someone who has lived in this country all my life and has worked in the tourism industry- I can honestly say that the possibilities are endless.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2017 at 1902 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Eunice. The Okavango Delta is HIGH on my wish list!! I’d also like to take another look at Gaborone, though 🙂

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