Stopover: Lusaka, the vibrant, cosmopolitan essence of Africa
Lusaka is an ever-growing and always busy capital, but also the commercial core of Zambia. Here, you will find a thriving cosmopolitan Africa, made of 70 local tribes, as well as tourists and expats. We explore the city with one of its locals, Towani Clarke, entrepreneur and founder of Kutowa.
New shopping malls are interspersed with a jigsaw of small businesses, burgeoning markets and a huge selection of bars and restaurants, all competing for attention.
While at times the settings might appear to the visitor as a haphazard and frenetic whirlpool of trade, the obvious friendliness of its residents and the many opportunities to relax and enjoy cultural and creative charms make Lusaka a not-to-be-missed destination.
Inside Lusaka with Towani Clarke
Lusaka is home to Towani Clarke, entrepreneur and founder of Kutowa, a women’s clothing and accessories brand that mixes distinctive African patterns and elegant silhouettes. Kutowa is derived from the name Towani, given to her by her Ngoni grandmother and meaning “so bright and beautiful you dazzle”. Towani is also the founder of Kuthuta Yoga, a popular yoga studio in Lusaka, where she is an instructor.
She is eager to talk about the natural openness of her people: “What I love about Lusaka are people’s smiles and inherent curiosity to find out about others.” In keeping with this relaxed and sociable atmosphere, her advice to visitors is: “Smile and greet people, even strangers – it’s the Zambian way!”
For the best steaks, she recommends Marlin Restaurant at the Lusaka Club and if you’re looking for a great spot to chill out to live music, the Misty Jazz Restaurant and Café is her top choice.
If your itinerary allows, don’t miss Lilayi Lodge, a bush experience just south of the city complete with elephant orphanage.
On a practical note, she advises taking mosquito repellent – unless travelling to the city in June or July. And for more insights into the Zambian nation and a gripping read, grab a copy of The Old Drift, by Zambian author Namwali Serpell, set in 1904 on the banks of the Zambezi River. It’s a must-read before you hop on the plane.
Pakati Market – Zambian arts and crafts in abundance
On weekends and public holidays, you can witness a microcosm of Zambian culture in this open market teeming with curios, carvings, crafts, clothes and traditional chitenge fabric.
Browse at your leisure, but don’t forget your hat and be prepared to bargain for the best price. Take time to chat to talented artists and craftspeople from all over the country for a fascinating insight into Zambian life.
Sugarbush Farm, Shop & Café – Eat, shop, relax
For a nurturing break from the full-throttle hustle of the city, head south to this haven of tranquillity where you can shop, eat and hang out in a laid-back tea garden.
Feast on fresh produce, homemade pastries and cakes. Then check out the shop for local handmade leather bags, soft furnishing and gifts. Children can release their energy in the play area.
Avitu Concept Store – Innovative local fashion
The concept store is a first of its kind in Lusaka, showcasing local fashion and accessory brands with a distinctive Zambian flavour, and is located in the Foxdale Court shopping mall, north of the city. The accent is on fresh, inspiring designs that are not mass-produced.
37D Gallery – Top talent on display
Artistic talent is blooming in Zambia and 37D Gallery gives you the opportunity to see the work of established and emerging local artists to their best advantage in this light and airy space. The gallery is part of a trust which promotes the visual arts and runs creative outreach programmes for disadvantaged youth.
MukaMunya Estate & Club – Back to nature
A lush, luxury estate in the Leopard’s Hill suburb with a clubhouse and sports facilities, where, for a small entry fee, visitors can access the secluded Monkey Pools.
This unique swimming spot in a riverine setting is the perfect place to cool off and enjoy some time out in nature. You can also picnic and meander through the small forest.
Lusaka Collective – Inspirational collaborative hub
Behind the Longacres food market is a must-see curated collection promoting the best of Zambian design. Lusaka Collective brings together local artists, craftspeople and small creative businesses offering a wide range of original handmade arts, crafts and gifts.
Chilenje House 394 – Understanding Zambia
A visit to the humble residence of the first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, is essential for anyone who is interested in the political history of the country. From this house (now a museum) Kaunda led the struggle for Zambia’s independence, which was finally reached on 24 December 1964. Best to go with a guide.
Mint Lounge – Fresh from Lusaka
Mint Lounge prides itself on supporting local suppliers of fresh, organic ingredients. Popular for both lunch and afternoon tea, this casual café offers a wide selection, including Towani Clarke’s favourites, the delicious salads. You’ll find it in the Arcades shopping centre next to the University of Zambia. Sit indoors or out.
Studio 225 – Artists at work
Studio 225 was started by Zambian artist David Daut Makala, growing from the initial small rented outlet in Chilenje market into a permanent studio where local and international artists, writers, photographers and videographers can easily collaborate with the market community. Studio 225 also encourages and mentors young, less established artists to allow them to experiment, collaborate and grow. ML
For more select recommendations on where to stay, eat and drink, shop and what not to miss in Lusaka, go to African City Guide
African City Guide is a curated online platform that provides a free source of independent recommendations for travellers to African cities, provided by insiders who really know their cities.
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