2016 Kolmanskop (Namibie)

In the dry, barren stretches on the edge of the Namib Desert in south-western Africa lie the bones of a grand town. Among the gentle curves of the sand drifts and bleached stone outcrops, ornate buildings rise, defying their desolate surroundings and exuding an air of quiet dignity. The vastness of the lonely landscape dwarfs the buildings and the sand seeks to hide the structures within itself. It is not until you approach the houses that their characteristic German architecture, featuring truncated roofs and generous windows, can be appreciated. The air in the deserted streets carries no hint of moisture. Life exists solely in the form of isolated stunted shrubs eking out a living; testing the limits of survival. The only sound is the wind patiently working a pane of glass loose from its frame. The fine desert sands are blown through the town, working their way into the abandoned houses. Welcome to Kolmanskop. Kolmanskop lies 850km south-west of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and 10km east of the isolated coastal town of Luderitz. Formerly, a train line ran eastwards from the coast at Luderitz to the larger town of Keetmanshoop, where it connected with a northern line to the capital. All the available ground in the vicinity of Luderitz was quickly pegged out and claimed. Laborers, organised in search lines and muffled against the blowing sands, crawled along on all fours armed with jam jars. The diamonds were picked off the ground and the jars filled rapidly. One of the first discoveries was made just before nightfall, so prospecting continued long into the night, with the glimmer of stones identifiable by moonlight. Kolmanskop grew out of the diamond boom. The region was administered by Germany at the beginning of the century and the town reflected this in its character. It was said of the Germans that only after they had finished building the pub and the skittle alley, their favorite form of relaxation, did they start looking for suitable plots to build their houses. In 1912, the area produced one million carats or 11.7 per cent of the world's total diamond production.

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