2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Africa; Cities

Skyline of Windhoek

Windhoek, Namibia

Area 645 km² (249 mi²)
Established 18 October 1890
Population 250,000
Population Density 356.6/km² (924 /mi²)
Administrative Division Khomas Region
Mayor Matheus Shikongo
Time Zone South Africa Standard Time: UTC+2
Latitude and Longitude Latitude: 22.56°S Longitude: 17.09°E

Windhoek (pronounced /ˈvɪnthʊk/, sometimes in German: Windhuk) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is located in the Khomas Region, has a population of approx. 280,000 (48,6% whites and coloureds) and is a major trade centre of sheep skin. It sits on a sloping plain on the northern side of the Khomas Hochland (Khomas Highlands) at an altitude of 1665 metres. Windhoek was originally inhabited by the Herero, then became the centre of a Nama chief who defeated the Herero in the 19th century. Germany occupied the region in 1885, and the city became the seat of colonial rule in 1892 as the capital of the colony of German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). During World War I Windhoek was captured by South African troops and became a South African Mandate under the League of Nations. Until the independence of Namibia was inaugurated in 1990, Windhoek was recognised as the capital city of South West Africa as administered by the South African government. It continues today as the capital city of the Republic of Namibia.


The city of Windhoek is traditionally known by two names: Ai-Gams, from the Nama people, which literally refers to the hot springs that were once part of Windhoek, while the second name, Otjomuise, meaning a place of steam, was given by the Herero people. Both traditional names reference the hot springs.

The early settlements of Windhoek came about because of the water from the hot springs. In the mid-1800s Captain Jan Jonker Afrikaner settled near one of the main hot springs, located in the present-day Klein-Windhoek, an upper-class suburb of Windhoek.

Statue of Hosea Kutako in Windhoek
Statue of Hosea Kutako in Windhoek

Theories vary on how Ai-Gams/Otjomuise got its modern name of Windhoek. Most believe the name Windhoek is derived from the Afrikaans word Wind-Hoek, meaning "corner of wind". It is also thought that the Afrikaners named Windhoek after the Winterhoek Mountains, at Tulbagh in South Africa, where the early Afrikaner settlers had lived. In those days Windhoek was the point of contact between the warring Namas, led by Jan Jonker Afrikaner, and the Herero people.

In Windhoek, Afrikaners built a stone church that held 500 people, which was also used as a school. Two Rhenish missionaries, Hugo Hahn and Heinrich Kleinschmidt, started working there in the 1840s and were later succeeded by two Wesleyans. Gardens were laid out and for a while Windhoek prospered, but wars between the Nama and Herero eventually destroyed the town. After a long absence, Hahn visited Windhoek again in 1873 and was dismayed to see that nothing remained of the town's former prosperity. In June 1885, a Swiss botanist found only jackals and starving guinea fowl amongst neglected fruit trees.

A church and a monument built by the Germans
A church and a monument built by the Germans

In 1878, Britain annexed Walvis Bay and incorporated it into the Cape of Good Hope in 1884, but Britain did not extend its influence into the hinterland. A request by merchants from Lüderitzbucht resulted in the declaration of a German protectorate over German West Africa in 1884. The German colony came into being with the determination of its borders in 1890 and Germany sent a protective corps, called the Schutztruppe under Major Curt von François, to maintain order. Von François stationed his garrison at Windhoek, which was strategically situated as a buffer between the Nama and Herero, while the twelve strong springs provided water for the cultivation of food.

Present-day Windhoek was founded on 18 October 1890, when Von François fixed the foundation stone of the fort, which is now known as the Alte Feste (Old Fortress). During the next fourteen years Windhoek developed slowly, with only the most essential government and private buildings being erected. In Klein-Windhoek, plots were allocated to settlers, who started farming on a small scale with fruit, tobacco and dairy cattle.

After 1907, development accelerated as people migrated from the countryside to the city and also some immigrated from outside the country. There was also a larger influx of European settlers arriving from Germany and South Africa. Businesses were erected on Kaiser Street, present Independence Avenue, and along the dominant mountain ridge over the city, including the three eye-catching castles.

Independence Avenue, the main street in downtown Windhoek
Independence Avenue, the main street in downtown Windhoek

The German colonial era came to an end during World War I when South African troops occupied Windhoek in May 1915 on behalf of the British Empire. For the next five years, a military government administered South West Africa. Development of the city of Windhoek and the nation later to be known as Namibia came to a virtual standstill. After World War II, Windhoek's development gradually gained momentum, as more capital became available to improve the area's economic climate. After 1955, large public projects were undertaken, such as the building of new schools and hospitals, hardening of the city's roads (a project begun in 1928), and the building of dams and pipelines to finally stabilize the water supply. It also introduced the World's first potable re use plant in 1958, treating recycled sewage and sending it directly into the town's water supply.

With Namibia's independence from South African administration in 1990, the city experienced accelerated growth and development. Windhoek became the seat of the first, democratically-elected government of the Republic of Namibia, headed by the president, Sam Nujoma.

Windhoek is twinned with the German capital Berlin (since 2000), Trossingen, Germany and has a partnership with Wetzlar, Germany



Windhoek is connect by rail to

  • Okahandja (north)
  • Rehoboth (south)
  • Gobabis (east)

Transportation in the city

Aerial view of Windhoek Centre
Aerial view of Windhoek Centre

In 1928, Kaiserstraße, now Independence Avenue, was the first paved road in Windhoek. Ten years later the next one, Gobabis road, now Sam Nujoma Drive, was also paved. Today out of ca. 40,000 km of Namibia's total road network, about 5000 km is sealed.

Windhoek's three main access roads from Rehoboth, Gobabis, and Okahandja are paved, and are designed to be able to withstand the largest possible flood to be expected in fifty years. Sealed roads can carry traffic moving at 120 km/h and should last for 20 years.

Windhoek has two airports: Eros on its outskirts for smaller craft, and Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport 42 km east of the city. A number of foreign airlines operate to and from Windhoek. Air charters and helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft rentals are also available.

Taxis are available during the day but seldom at night. Fares are fixed (only two price categories exist within the city of Windhoek) based on the larger area of destination.

Windhoek International Airport (WDH)

Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport, situated 45 kilometres outside Windhoek, handles well over 400,000 passengers a year. It has one runway without capacity limitations. Other international airports are located in Walvis Bay and Luderitz. It directly connects up to 5 times per week to the following airports: London 2 times a week Frankfurt 5 times a week. Southern Africa's hub, Johannesburg, is only a two-hour flight away, from where it is possible to connect to over 50 cities. South African Airways, LTU, and Air Namibia all have daily flights to Windhoek International Airport, whilst TAAG Angola Airlines has bi-weekly turnarounds to Luanda.

Eros Airport

Eros Airport is the busiest airport in Namibia in terms of take offs and landings. This city airport handles around 12,000 individual flights a year, the majority of which are light aircraft. Primarily, limitations such as runway length, noise, and air space congestion have kept Eros from developing into a larger airport. Most of Namibia's charter operators have Eros as their base.

Tintenpalast in Windhoek
Tintenpalast in Windhoek


Windhoek is situated in a semi-desert climatic region. Days are mostly warm with very hot days during the summer months, while nights are generally cool. The average annual temperature is 19.47°C, which is high for a site at such a high altitude on the edge of the tropics. This is mainly due to the prevalence of a warm northerly airflow and the mountains to the south, which shelter the city from cold southerly winds.

The winter months of June, July and August usually experience very little rain. Minimum temperatures range between 5°C (41°F) to 18°C (64°F). Nights are usually cool, although the temperature seldom drops below 0°C, and it almost never snows. Days are usually hot to very hot, varying from a maximum of 20°C in July to 31°C in January.

Mean annual rainfall is around 360mm, which is too low to support crops or gardens without heavy use of watering. The natural vegetation of the area is scrub and steppe. Droughts are a regular occurrence; dry and wet years run through a cycle that lasts around 10 years.

Monthly Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Ave High °C 31 29 28 26 23 21 21 24 27 29 30 31
Ave Low °C 18 17 16 13 9 7 7 9 12 15 16 17
Precip (mm) 78 80 79 38 7 1 1 1 3 12 27 42

Retrieved from ""
This Wikipedia DVD Selection has a sponsor: SOS Children , and is mainly selected from the English Wikipedia with only minor checks and changes (see for details of authors and sources). The articles are available under the GNU Free Documentation License. See also our Disclaimer.