Kolmanskop: The Deserted Tourist Town

Kolmanskop was founded in the early 1900s when diamonds were found in the desert but abandoned 40 years later. Located in the Namib desert, Southern Namibia, it was once home to hundreds of German families who flocked to the area to try and make their fortune.
The ghost town is now a famous site for tourists and photographers after it was made a museum by joint firm Namibia-De Beers.

It was once the home to hundreds of German miners desperately seeking their fortune in the Namibian desert. But almost 100 years after Kolmanskop peaked as a thriving and bustling oasis, it is now a dilapidated ghost town slowly being reclaimed by the sand. Tourists and photographers now flock to the area to see the formally grand German houses gradually sink into desert.


The town was built and abandoned within just 40 years due to the depleting diamond finds, and for decades, it was then left to the desert. Grand stately homes have been ravaged by the wind and the encroaching dunes have left buildings feet deep in sand.
However, mining company De Beers set up a museum in 1980 to preserve some of the history of Kolmanskop. Now tourists come to see the restored buildings and walk around the eerie abandoned homes.

Kolmanskop was founded in the early 1900s when diamonds were discovered just sitting on the sand. Railway worker Zacharias Lewala found the gem in 1908 as he dug away from the railway line. He showed it to his boss August Stauch, who got the stone tested and had it confirmed as a diamond. The news sparked a diamond rush on the area and within a few years hundreds of Germans had set up home in the Namib Desert.
Kolmanskop grew and soon resembled a German town. Residents built a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle alley, theatre and sports hall and an ice factory.
The town even boasted the first X-ray station in the southern hemisphere as well as Africa’s first tram.

By the 1920s, 300 German adults, 40 children and 800 native Owambo contract workers lived in Kolmanskop. Homes and building still stand but are empty, eerily quiet and packed with sand dunes amid the plains of the desert, in south Namibia, near the coast at Lüderitz. Among the gentle curves of the sand drifts and bleached stone outcrops, ornate buildings rise, defying their desolate surroundings and exuding an air of quiet dignity.
The vastness of the lonely landscape dwarfs the buildings and the sand seeks to hide the structures within itself. It is not until you approach the houses that their characteristic German architecture, featuring truncated roofs and generous windows, can be appreciated.

Among the buildings of European architecture that remain: grand stately homes, a hospital, casino and theatre — all ravaged by wind and encroaching dunes that have left them feet deep in sand. Tourist wander among the derelict houses and buildings, some being slowly restored, while others house museum exhibits and interpretative displays. Photographers have made the location famous and several movies and documentaries have been filmed on the site.
The ghost town has been used in many South African television series and films and was also the setting for the 2000 film, “The King Is Alive” so tourists might be lucky enough to spot a celebrity.

This article was written by Teniola Anipole
P.S: Pictures are not ours unless stated.
Photo credit: Instagram

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