Kolmanskop: A Namibian Ghost Town
This ghost town, just inland from Lüderitz in the Namib Desert, was briefly a very rich mining town. It was named after the transport driver Johnny Coleman, who was forced to abandon his wagon here during a sandstorm. In 1908 a railway worker found a diamond here lying in the sand, thus starting off a diamond rush that saw fortune hunters converge on the settlement. The sudden wealth that was created turned Kolmanskop into a bustling – and rich – little town, complete with a ball room, bowling alley, lemonade plant and an X-ray machine (the first in southern Africa). In a short time a model German town had sprung up in the desert catering to affluent colonialists.
But it wasn’t to last. The population peaked at about 1,000 only a couple of decades later, when the diamonds ran out, the town went into terminal decline as settlers abandoned it in search of new diamond fields. Today it is a ghost town in the desert and the remains of the once grand buildings are slowly being consumed by the desert sands.
Kolmanskop is often referred to as an open-air museum, although tourists will need to obtain a permit to visit due to its location in the Sperrbegiet restricted area.