Thursday, November 16, 2006

Welcome To Babylon

I and a unique opportunity to take a bunch of pictures while riding incognito in the back of a bakkie (truck).  Normally I don't take pictures while traveling through town because it seems rude and indignant.  But this time no one could see me and I took pictures like there was no tomorrow.

An old car outside a residence.  It may look abandoned, but it's either being worked on or used as a place to sleep.  Little goes unused in townships.A lot of care goes into the houses here.  You can see an old guard shack that has been put to use.  Gardens and decorative plants are not rare.The outskirts of Babylon.  A river runs through a valley but the water is hardly potable due to sewage content.

Welcome to Babylon, a settlement just outside of Katutura.  It used to be what Namibians call a "temporary settlement" or "informal settlement" but now it's officially a part of the city.  In 1997 the streets were lighted and water taps were installed one-per-block. 

The residents here pay no taxes.  The land is free, one need only register to claim a spot.  The houses can be built using wood and metal sheets for less than N$1 000 (US$145).  Residents are supposed to pay N$25 a month for the access to water, but few do.

A great view of one of the hillsides.  Remember, each house contains 6 to 20 individuals.  That's a lot of people!You'll find residents spend most of their time outside their houses talking with friends.  It's a stress-free life style.You can see the typical construction materials and methods here.  A basic 4X6 frame with metal sheets attached.  When the rain comes, it floods every household.

Life in Babylon is a mystery to me.  I intend to learn more about this place, but transportation and security issues make it difficult.  All I know now is most of the inhabitants of this area are recent (within the past 10 years) immigrants from other parts of Namibia.  Few have jobs, but those that do can afford to support an entire block of people.  Each house contains usually two rooms, a living room and a private room.  Adults sleep in the private room while kids sleep in the main room.  Each shack you see in the photos houses between 6 to 20 people each night.

Another view of a hillside.  You can see some shops in the lower left and planted shrubs in the foreground.That's a bathroom on the right, basically a hole with a pot.  A hair-salon sits to the left.You can see a very large market on the corner there.  The markets buy their goods from official markets in town then resale them for slim profits here.

The commerce in Babylon is mainly informal businesses.  You can buy just about anything you need, groceries, meat, small appliances, a hair cut and even a tune-up for the car by stopping by the right house in Babylon.  Few people here work outside (in Katutura) and most learners school nearby.

It's a fascinating place I can't wait to learn more about.

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