First impressions of Zambia

I’ve noticed that while city centres are the public face of the region, and airports are steel-and-glass monuments to cultural homogeneity, the surroundings as you travel from airport to city often gives an insight into what lies below the surface. New York is seedy, Paris is over-commercialised, Miami is pretty but vacuous, and London is depressing and impersonal.

Judged by this standard, Zambia fares quite well. The land is flat, dry, and under-developed, but it has a genuineness about it that immediately appeals. When I last came a few years ago, the most striking sight was of people walking alongside the road carrying sacks on their heads. It seemed to me that there were fewer of them this time round, and more people transporting goods by bicycle.

Apparently a cyclist transporting 4 large sacks of charcoal might earn 10,000 kwacha for a day’s effort in the hot sun. That would just about buy a sliced loaf in the supermarket we frequent.

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