Home to the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, the Makgadikgadi Pans and the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park, Botswana is a popular tourist destination. However, its capital city Gaborone is often overlooked as a place of interest. Although Gaborone doesn’t have the vibrant feel of some of Africa’s big cities, many fall in love with its relative calm, cleanliness and urban conveniences. At the heart of the city is the Main Mall, one of my favourite running spots.
A few years ago, I wrote about my love for running through the Main Mall as part of a series I was doing on exploring Gaborone. Although it does not form part of my usual running route, I do make a point to touch base here every few weeks. I didn’t realise just how much I’d run here until I started poring over the archive of photos. And on each run, I’ve been drawn to something different. So with all that said, I think its highly deserving of its own blog!
I usually enter the Main Mall through the official gate opposite the Civic Centre. The Gate’s subtle bull horns design pays homage to Botswana’s cattle industry which was the mainstay of our economy for many years.
Built in 1963, the Main Mall is the official centre of the city with shops, banks, business offices, the National Blood Transfusion Centre and some of the first High Commissions situated here like those of Great Britain, Zambia and Nigeria as well as the German Embassy. There’s an open walkway which hosts seasonal shows as well as various exhibitions and events, including the official opening of the recently held Forbes Under 30 Summit. There are also several stalls selling crafts and various farm produce like morogo (wild edible leafy greens), beans, pulses, grains and the local delicacy phane (mophane caterpillars).
The Main Mall once housed Gaborone’s first cinema, The Capitol, and it still has one of the oldest hotels in the city – Cresta President Hotel. This hotel features quite prominently in Alexander McCall Smith’s famous No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel series where the protagonist Mma Ramotswe spends hours investigating crimes whilst drinking Rooibos tea.
There is also the famous Notwane Pharmacy which has been here for decades as well as the Central Post Office, the second oldest in the city. You’ll also find the Botswana Book Centre, the first book shop of its kind in the city as well as Gaborone Hardware, another invaluable first, which as its name suggests sold hardware and a whole host of other things.
Popular restaurant Main Deck opened a few years ago with some fabulous murals by local artist Rexx decorating its main entrance.
As Gaborone grew and shopping malls started cropping up all over the ever expanding city, the Mall’s popularity subsided.
But there’s recently been an increased drive to ensure its survival as the pulsating authentic heart of the city especially given its strong historical relevance to Gaborone. Several areas have been repainted beautifully and more plants and sculptures have been introduced. Through the Diamond Square Pop-Up Park initiative, it has also become home to several up-and-coming local artists and musicians, a small street library and games section, and cute drink kiosks including my favourite street barista, the Perfect Roast Kofi Kiosk.
Now do you see why this is one of my favourite places to run?! If you haven’t run through the Main Mall, I highly recommend it for your next run, and if you’re a race organiser, I can’t think of a better place for the Start/End of a race! Just saying 🙂
Did you ever visit the Capitol Cinema? Have you run through the Main Mall? Where’s your favourite place to run?
For more ideas on where to run in Gaborone, check these blogs out:
- Exploring Gaborone On The Run – 1
- Exploring Gaborone On The Run – 2
- Exploring Gaborone On The Run – 3
- Chasing Jacarandas In Gaborone
I’m joining two amazing runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired.