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The Story of Kolmanskop, Former Diamond Mine and Now Ghost Town in the Namib Desert

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Ghost towns may be creepy, but they always have good stories to tell. Case in point, the Kolmanskop in the middle of the Namib desert in South Africa. Here, no humans can be found, only decrepit houses partly swallowed by the sand. They are witnesses to a once thriving town.

The story goes that in 1908, railway worker Zacharias Lewala, while shoveling in the desert, noticed a sparkling stone. Convinced the stone was a diamond, Lewala decided to show his discovery to his supervisor, German railway inspector August Stauch, for confirmation.

Kolmanskop is located in the middle of the Namib desert in South Africa.

This discovery enticed German miners to settle in the area. It was then declared a “Sperrgebiet” or forbidden territory, and the miners started exploring (and exploiting) the diamond field.

It used to be a bustling town and a rich diamond field.

Inspired by the sudden wealth of the first diamond miners, more and more people resided in the area and developed a busting little town with German-inspired architecture. The town had a hospital, school, ballroom, power station, casino, ice factory, skittle-alley, theater and sport-hall, the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere, and the first tram in Africa.

Sand storms were very frequent in the town.

Despite the fast development, the townspeople had to deal with harsh sand storms that happened daily. So impactful were these sand storms that the town’s name came from an incident that happened during one. ‘Kolmanskop’ is Afrikaans for ‘Coleman’s hill,’ named after a transport driver named Johnny Coleman who, in the middle of a sand storm, left his ox wagon on a small incline opposite the settlement.

After World War I, diamond prices went down.

Kolmanskop reached its peak in the 1920s. But after World War I, diamond prices crashed, and then began the town’s decline. During this time, there were about 300 German adults, 800 Owambo contract workers, and 49 children residing in Kolmanskop.

The people of Kolmanskop decided to leave.

Slowly, the townspeople left. The diamond field in Kolmanskop had been exhausted, and newer, richer fields were discovered further south. By 1954, the “Little Germany in midst of the Desert” had been abandoned. The desert slowly swallowed the once thriving town.

Some structures have been restored to remember the glory days of the town.

In the 1980s, the mining company De Beers restored some of the structures and opened a museum as remembrance of the former glory of the town.

Today, it’s a famous tourist destination.

Kolmanskop may have been abandoned turning it into a ghost town, but today, tourists, photographers, and movie buffs frequent the place. Kolmanskop has been used as a movie location for various films, including The King Is Alive and Dust Devil.

Permits need to be secured to take a tour of the now ghost town.

Source: Katie Hunt

Since it’s still in the restricted area of the Namib desert, tourists must secure a permit to enter the ghost town. Permits may be bought at the gate into the town.

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