An Authentic Taste of ZAMBIA

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I think that one of the reasons people travel the world is so they can experience life in a whole different manner than they’re used to. Naturally, this involves discovering new cultures, tastes and sampling or feasting on traditional foods prepared in that region.

Welcome to Zambia

There’s been some debate about where exactly on the African map Zambia is located; Central or Southern Africa. Nevertheless, it is accepted by many that it is part of Southern Africa and that it is landlocked with a population of around 16 billion people. Zambia is surrounded by seven countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The official language in Zambia is English, which is not surprising considering it was once a British colony.

There are currently 73 official local languages with Bemba, Chewa, and Tonga being the most spoken. Zambia is known on the international tourist market for being home to the mighty Victoria Falls as well as the source of the fourth longest river in Africa, the Zambezi.

Lusaka is the capital city of Zambia, the largest and fast developing city in the country. The name of Zambia was derived from the Zambezi river (Zambezi may mean “Grand River”) others say it means (the river (that belongs to) of God).

Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia from 1911. It was renamed Zambia at independence in 1964. On 24 October 1964, Zambia became independent of the United Kingdom and prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became the inaugural president. Kaunda’s socialist United National Independence Party (UNIP) maintained power from 1964 until 1991.

Zambias Independence

Every year on October 24th, Zambia celebrates its Independence Day to commemorate the day that freedom was achieved from British Rule. The public holiday is celebrated throughout the country with street parades and merriment. Throughout the month of October, the Zambian colours of red, green, black and orange start to adorn many businesses and homes, and fabrics in a myriad of patriotic colours are sewn into amazing Chitenge designs.

I grew up in different countries,and Zambia was one of them as my mum is Zambian. We generally only celebrated Zambian Independence Day when we had family visiting since we didn’t have many other Zambians around where we lived most times. I can remember as a child that on Independence Day, we had the day off of school and we would play Waida which is a game where 2 people use a rope and a third person jumps over. I could play this for hours before sitting down to a meal of chicken and rice with my family.

Independence Day is the biggest party of the year. Lots of drinking and lots of chicken and rice (which seems to be what everyone wants during a celebration in Zambia).

Cities and towns that were also renamed after the independence

Balovale → Zambezi
Bancroft → Chililabombwe (1967)
Chililabombwe is a small town in Copperbelt Province, Zambia. It is located near the Democratic Republic of the Congo border. The name Chililabombwe means ‘place of the croaking frog’ in the local language of Bemba.

Fort Jameson → Chipata (1967)
The city of Chipata is the administrative centre of the Eastern Province of Zambia and Chipata District. It was declared the 5th city of the country, after Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Livingstone

Broken Hill → Kabwe (1967)
Kabwe (stone) is the capital of the Zambian Central Province, oldest mining town; cave site where the fossil skull of Rhodesian man (now called Kabwe 1) was found.

Feira → Luangwa (1964)
Luangwa was probably the first European settlement in Zambia

Some typical Zambian food and dishes:

Nshima: maize-meal porridge or thick cornmeal mash, often served with tomato sauce and vegetables such as okra or spinach
Chutney: try the pineapple and pepper chutney they serve with many dishes.
Cassava Pancakes: can be served either as a sweet dish with syrup. The savoury version is often prepared with leafy green vegetables such as pumpkin leaves, collard or spinach.
Ifisashi: groundnut stew mixed with vegetables or meat.


A dowry or bride’s price in Zambia is called ‘lobola‘. This is a pre-wedding practice where the groom is asked to pay an appreciation fee to his intended wife’s family for raising her well. This fee is usually in monetary form in urban cities, or in livestock in rural areas. Before the process, a groom must declare his intention to marry the bride by bringing plates filled with money which is called ‘nsalamu‘ to his bride’s relatives.

Never refusing food

When at someone’s house and offered food, it is rude to say no, even if a meal has already been eaten before the visit. It is also considered rude to not finish a meal. As most traditional meals in Zambia are served buffet-style, the visitor should pick only food that they are able to finish.
Respect for elders (this applies for almost every African country)
When greeting or serving elders, younger people usually kneel. It is also considered rude to speak when elders are speaking, unless directly addressed, and it is considered rude to accept anything with the left hand, even if left-handed.

Traditional ceremonies

Zambians belong to one or several of approximately 73 tribes, all of which have unique traditional ceremonies. These ceremonies celebrate harvests or reenact parts of a tribe’s history. They are held throughout the year and are free for any Zambian to attend regardless of tribe. The popular ceremonies include Kuomboka, N’cwala and Umutomboko among others.

The most impressive event in the calendar is the Kuomboka fiesta. Kuomboka means “to get out of water” and that’s exactly what the festival celebrates: the Lozi king’s journey from floodplain to higher, drier ground. Taking place before the monsoon, it’s quite a spectacle: the king travels on a ceremonial barge adorned with a giant model elephant, while revellers celebrate with music and dance.

Tea at 4pm

Zambia was colonized by the British under independence in 1964, and one of the things that they left behind was their love of afternoon tea. In Zambia, 4pm tea is called ’16 hours’ and usually consists of tea with fritters, bread or biscuits.

Victoria Falls

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls forms a watery border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Officially the largest waterfall in the world, by volume, whichever country you view it from, it looks spectacular. The traditional name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya.
Mosi-oa-tunya means the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ and, as you can imagine, Victoria Falls truly lives up to its name.

You can jump off a bridge

Livingstone has long been known as the gateway to Victoria Falls, but more recently it has forged a reputation as the “adventure capital of southern Africa”, which is fitting given the town was named after Scottish adventurer, David Livingstone.

The eponymous town offers adrenaline-inducing activities such as abseiling, white water rafting and bungee jumping, which can be done from the 111m-high Victoria Falls Bridge.

Though perhaps overshadowed by neighbouring Botswana and South Africa, Zambia is undeniably one of the continent’s best safari destinations.

It’s home to the Big Five of wildlife

All of Africa’s Big Five can be found in Zambia including lions, rhinos and elephants. South Luangwa National Park is a protection area for these animals.

Kafue National Park is of particular interest to wildlife enthusiasts, home as it is to an abundance of impressive creatures, from leopards and lions to elephants and pangolins. The birdlife is astounding too.

Lions are amongst the star attractions

Zambia relies on copper as one of its biggest exports

Zambia’s main export is copper. They produce around 1.5 million tonnes a year.

There’s only one place in the world where four countries meet at a single frontier – and that’s at the four-way border between Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. This quadripoint is actually located at the confluence of the Cuando and Zambezi rivers, denying tourists the opportunity to do a merry dance across four countries.

Some Local Words to Use at when you travel around:
Mulibwanji: How are you?
Nilibwino: I am fine.
Nizingati: How much?
Zikomo: Thank you

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