Kolmanskop (Photo Diary)
We kept our eyes peeled for shining stones and glamorous ghosts as we explored the deserted diamond town of Kolmanskop in Namibia that is now almost lost to the dunes.
In its heyday, Kolmanskop was so rich in diamonds that men didn’t even need spades to find them, they just sifted through the dirt with their hands. “We discovered riches beyond our wildest expectations, it felt like being in a fairy tale. The precious stones were lying around as if sewn by hand. While returning from a scouting ride in the worst of sandstorms, we happened across a spot where I collected 209 diamonds off an area of 20m² in half an hour.” – One lucky fellow's account from 1909.
Diamond fever ensued after the first precious pebble was discovered in 1908. A lavish town appeared, as if from nothing, and flourished for half a century in the middle of the unforgiving desert.
The acoustically perfect Recreation Club’s central hall provided refuge from the harsh desert, holding sumptuous balls and showing operas, ballets and the first silent movies.
Luxurious items like caviare, Camembert cheese and champagne were imported from Europe by the town's glamorous occupants. In fact, because Kolmanskop was in the desert, EVERYTHING had to be imported, including fresh water from Cape Town which ended up being as expensive as champagne!
Their once lavish homes are now being lost to the dunes but it's easy to imagine the glitzy parties that took place here and how female guests' gems would have glinted in the moonlight.
Kolmanskop's hospital had the first X-ray machine in the southern hemisphere to check workers for stolen, swallowed diamonds.
As the dunes forced us to duck under doorways, it felt as though we had bitten into Alice in Wonderland's 'EAT ME' cake and were out growing the buildings.
At one time, Kilmanskop was the wealthiest place in all of Africa but when the diamond mines became exhausted, there was simply no reason for anyone to stay and slowly the town has been reclaimed by the desert.
This staircase's creaks are just caused by the wind and sand whipping through...or perhaps not all of Kolmanskop's residents have left after all...