huff and puff





Once the home to hundreds of German miners desperately seeking their fortune in the Namibian desert. 100 years later it is now a eerie ghost town slowly being reclaimed by the sand.

The mining company De Beers set up a museum in 1980 to preserve some of the history of Kolmanskop. 

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.

The Namibia tourist board said: ‘In spite of, or probably because of, the isolation and bleakness of the surrounding desert, Kolmanskop developed into a lively little haven of German culture, offering entertainment and recreation to suit the requirements of the affluent colonialists.’

However when the price of diamonds began to drop after World War One the town began to deteriorate, particularly after richer diamonds were found further south and it was abandoned in 1954.

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.

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