Capital of the Herero
Okahandja has about 25000 inhabitants and is known as one of the three important towns of the Herero. Okahandja can be found 70 km north of Windhoek along the B1. All people traveling to the densely populated north of Namibia or to the coast (Swakopmund) have to pass through Okahandja.
The history of Okahandja is closely entwined with the history of the Herero. Since about 1850 it was one of their most important tribal centres, as it served as a preferred settling location for Herero tribes emigrating from today’s Angola.
As from 1884 the German colonial troops tried to come to a contraction agreement with the Herero, as they had become – after many previous battles - the most important force in South West Africa. These efforts were not very successful and the Germans were even chased from Okahandja on 1884 and had to flee to Otjimbingwe. After the strengthening of the German troops and the relationship towards the Germans had improved a new protection treaty was signed in 1890 in Okahandja with Curt von Francois (founder of Windhoek). After concluding the contract the relations between the Germans and Herero improved for a while, but with time deteriorated mainly due to malpractice of German traders. This lead to an uprising of the Herero in January 1904, which lasted seven months and ended in the Battle of Waterberg, which resulted in the expulsion of the Herero into the Omaheke and thus the near elimination of the Herero people. The expulsion into the Omaheke, where thousands of Herero died of thirst went down into history as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Until today Okahandja has remained the most important centre for the Herero and also their big leaders are buried in the town. In commemoration of the battle of Waterberg and of the deceased leaders a traditional Herero Day is celebrated every year, which also has become a touristic attraction. Worth mentioning are especially the pageants with the colourful dresses and head dresses in form of cattle horns of the women and the beige military uniforms of the men
Another tourist attraction is the large woodcarver’s market in Okahandja. Here you can find beautifully carved crafts of good quality and at reasonable prices.
Twenty-five kilometres south-west of Okahandja you will find the thermal springs of “Gross Barmen”. The former missionary station was transformed into thermal spa in 1975. From a depth of 2500 metres 65 ºC hot water is flowing into an indoor and outdoor pool.