The country of Zambia is shaped like a foetus and, due to its central location in Southern Africa, it is also referred to as the “Heart of Africa”. Its name is derived from the river Zambezi, which flows from the northern part of the country through the West and finally into the Indian Ocean. The river also forms Zambia’s southern border with the countries Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Zambia is located on a 1000m high plateau surrounded by deep valleys and depressions, which is why you will find a multitude of waterfalls in Zambia. The largest and most impressive are the Victoria Falls near Livingstone in the South of the country. Since 1989, they are a UNESCO world natural heritage site. The natives call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya (“thundering smoke”) and understandably so, once you’ve seen them with your own eyes: with an ear-deafening noise, the water masses roll down the falls, spanning 1708m, and into a 110m deep and 50m wide canyon with steep rock walls. The falling water creates mists of up to 300m high, visible from 30km away in good weather conditions. All of this has created a beautiful rain forest around the Victoria Falls with beautiful rainbows arching above it. Towards the end of the dry season in September and October, only a few runlets remain of the thundering masses.
Zambia has a mild tropical climate with three seasons:
- • May-September: cold dry season between 15 and 27°C, while in June/July the days can be as cold as 10°C and the nights as cold as 4°C
- • October-November: hot dry season between 24 and 38°C
- • December-April: hot and humid rainy season with strong, tropical storms and average temperatures of 27-38°C
72 different languages and dialects are spoken in Zambia (the most common language is Bemba with 36%). Although Zambia became independent from England in 1964, English remains the official language
Since 1991, Zambia has been categorized as a Christian country with religious freedom. 50% of the population call themselves Christians (of which 60% are Catholic, 20% Protestant, 20% members of free churches). However, the application of Christian values to their lives often appears to be missing.
There are also natural religions, Hindus and Muslims, while the Islamic influence is growing in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
In the capital city of Lusaka the influence of the western world is becoming more and more evident. When shopping in one of the city’s six malls, you almost feel like you are in Europe: everything is modern and build with glass and tile, the many shops also sell imported goods, and there are numerous restaurants. This “wealth” attracts many people from the rural areas to find jobs. Consequentially, within the last ten years Lusaka’s population has grown from about 2 million to over 3 million. This rapid growth has become a real problem — besides the wealthy areas there are a multitude of slums and compounds in which the people live in mere subsistence.
Even though the World Bank categorized Zambia as one of the economically fastest growing countries in 2010, unemployment is still very high and many people live at the poverty line. Regardless, the people are always friendly, show their winning smile, and offer great hospitality. In order to gain a foothold in this warm-hearted country, you only need a bit of humor, openness, and respect regarding Zambian culture.