OmaruruFifty kilometres north of Karibib on the C33, lies the small town of Omaruru on the Omaruru River. Although the river is usually dry, apart from a few puddles here and there, Omaruru appears quite lush and green due to an abundant groundwater supply.
The history of Omaruru is closely linked to the history of the Western Herero people, who arrived mid-18th century with their herds of cattle from the Kaokoveld down south to settle here. The missionary Gottlieb Viehe came in 1872 from Otjimbingwe - the mission centre of the Rhenish Church 100 kilometres south - and built the mission house. Viehe translated the Bible into the Herero language and succeeded in converting many Herero in the Omaruru region to Christianity, even their chief Wilhelm Zeraua.
Around the turn of the last century, German settlers became interested in the Omaruru region and started establishing farms, mostly along the banks of the river where the soil was most fertile. A 20-men strong garrison of the German Schutztruppe was stationed in Omaruru for the protection of the settlers.
In January 1904, the violent uprising of the Herero people in Namibia started, which strongly affected Omaruru. The Herero raided the farms and surrounded the town. The Schutztruppe had left just shortly before to Gibeon, 400 kilometres south. Captain Viktor Franke, commander of the Omaruru company, returned with his men immediately after news of the uprising was received via heliograph.
After a forced march of 900 kilometres in only five days, he managed to bring relief; first to Windhoek and then to Okahandja and eventually, he broke through the besieging ring around Omaruru to free the settlers.
The watchtower dates back to the year 1908 when it was built to provide a better strategic position for future attacks. It was named Franke Tower in honour of Captain Viktor Franke.
The social climate in Omaruru is undergoing changes today. The traditional occupants are being joined by a growing number of artists and crafters who give the town an attractive flair. Visit the Tikoloshe Afrika Centre at the town entrance, which offers wood sculptures of a high quality. Also interesting is the Kristall Kellerei (wine cellars) of the Weber family, who manage to produce excellent wines in Omaruru despite the hot and arid climate.
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Photos: Top the "Franke Turm". Left the Sand Dragon Bistro.