Capital Capitals: Africa II



Last week, I dove into the menacing geographical monster that is Africa and managed to crawl out relatively unscathed with about half of the countries and their capitals covered. This week, I return to finish the beast off for good. Hopefully, after reading through these informative tidbits a little knowledge will be retained.

Malawi – Lilongwe – The Lilongwe River snakes through Malawi and ends at Lake Malawi, one of the largest lakes in the world. The river winds through the capital city of Malawi, which is how the capital got its name.

Mali – Bamako – As of 2006, Bamako, located on the Niger River, was estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa with a population of 1.8 million and an annual growth rate of 4.45% that would see the population nearly double in 15 years.

Mauritania – Nouakchott – Reigning as one of the largest cities in the Sahara, Nouakchott is named as “place of the winds”, despite the climate of the city being fairly moderate.

Mauritius – Port Louis – This far-flung eastern country was once controlled by France, which is why the capital takes its name after a former French king. The French developed the port city as a resupply site for Asia-bound ships traveling around the Cape of Good Hope.

Morocco – Rabat – Rabat was once called New Salé after the adjacent ancient city Salé. Salé is the oldest city on the Atlantic coast, founded by the Phoenicians who reigned from 1200-539 BC. Rabat was later renamed and its name means “fortified place”.

Mozambique – Maputo – This port city is known as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, although Sri Lankans might contest. Maputo has a stronger claim as the City of Acacias with its streets scattered with the slender, leaf-crowned trees.

Namibia – Windhoek – Windhoek was first established as just a tiny village with a small stone church. The town grew rapidly, then destroyed due to wars and civil unrest, and finally re-established as the capital of Namibia.

Niger – Niamey – One of the major economic goods that Niamey provides is pearl millet. Pearl millet is a grain that can be used for beer, porridge, or as grazing forage.

Nigeria – Abuja – Nigeria is a country divided by religion, with about half the population practicing Islam and the other half, Christianity. This religious split also divides the country in half geographically, which upon Nigerian gaining independence, prompted leaders to build a city nearly geographically-central. Thus, the modern capital city Abuja was founded.

Rwanda – Kigali – The mwami, the Rwandan king, resides in the capital city of Kigali. Kigali was the site of the Rwandan Genocide, where nearly one million Tutsis were killed in only about 100 days.

São Tomé and Príncipe – São Tomé – Portuguese for Saint Thomas, São Tomé was founded by Portuguese settlers searching for fertile lands for sugar crops. Even as an independent nation, it still maintains its Portuguese roots; it’s sister city is Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city.

Senegal – Dakar – The Portuguese also settled in Dakur, the capital city of Senegal. Most significantly, Amerigo Vespucci stopped at Dakar’s bay and began to formulate his “New World” hypothesis, which countered Columbus’ claim to discovering Asia’s eastern outskirts.

Seychelles – Victoria – Unrelated to the Africa’s largest lake, Victoria is located on a tiny island country 932 miles off of Africa’s eastern shores. Victoria is the capital city to Africa’s least populous country.

Sierra Leone – Freetown – Freetown was the first black American settlement; thousands of free African-Americans traveled across the Atlantic to land in Freetown. These settlers left a unique lineage now called Sierra Leone Creole.

Somalia – Mogadishu – My mind can’t help but make associations with Somalia and piracy, mostly thanks to Captain Phillips. The poor reputation Somalia has garnered is not unwarranted though; even the capital city Mogadishu is a key player in arming the pirates. Weapons dealers often trade in the capital city.

South Africa – Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Cape Town – Technically, South African has zero capital cities. However, the constitution names Pretoria as the seat of the President and the Cabinet, Cape Town is where the legislative branch conducts business, and Bloemfontein hosts the judicial branch. Even the largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg, plays a role as the home of the nation’s Constitutional Court.

South Sudan – Juba – Juba is the world’s newest capital, established on July 9, 2011. South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan following two Sudanese civil wars and a nearly unanimous public vote.

Sudan – Khartoum – The White Nile and the Blue Nile, two of the main tributaries of the Nile River, meet at Khartoum. This division makes Khartoum a tripartite capital, a three sectioned city designation that is likely not shared by many other capitals.

Swaziland – Mbabane, Lobamba – Swaziland is another country with multiple capitals (seems as if defining capitals can be just as tricky as defining countries). Mbabane is the nation’s administrative center and largest city while Lobamba is considered the traditional and spiritual capital, where the female head of state (the Queen Mother, typically Swaziland’s king’s mother) resides.

Tazania – Dodoma – Meaning “it has sunk”, Dodoma is probably the most unfortunately forebodingly named capital city thus far. The name is actually somewhat apocryphal, either from a legend of tribesmen who slaughtered and ate another tribe’s cattle. When questioned, the tribesmen pointed to the tails sticking out of the grown and claimed the cows had sunk. Another story tells how an elephant drinking from a stream nearby got stuck in the mud and the place was forever known by this event.

Togo – Lomé – Togo’s capital city attempted to act as the Paris of Africa by settling unrest in Sierra Leone. The Lomé Peace Accord would have ended the Sierra Leone Civil War, but the agreement was unsuccessful and the war lasted another two years.

Tunisia – Tunis – Algiers, Algeria; Djibouti, Djibouti; Bissau, Guinea-Bissau; São Tomé, São Tomé and Príncipe; all of these African capital cities are named after their home countries and Tunis joins the ranks of easy-to-remember capital cities. Tunis is directly across from the weathered stone structures of the ancient city of Carthage, founded around 814 BC.

Uganda – Kampala – Originally just a hunting ground for a king, the British entered the antelope-rich area and dubbed it “the Hill of the Impala” (after likely commenting something like, “Uganda eat all that?” British people love bad puns.) The local kingdom translated this to “Kampala”, naming the future capital city.

Zambia – Lusaka – Lusaka is a sister city to Los Angeles (1 of 25, although Lusaka is less promiscuous with its sister city designations with only three).

Zimbabwe – Harare – Originally founded as Salisbury by the British, Harare was renamed after Zimbabwe gained its independence in the early 1980s. The name comes from a chief of nearby Shona tribe.



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