Saturday 18 September 2010
Dylan Jones: 'Until the end of the first Iraq war, Lusaka had its own Saddam Hussein Boulevard'
In Zambia, the Brits get fleeced even before they've passed immigration. Every visitor has to pay a £50 tax on entry, but the British are the only visitors to have their children taxed, too. They have passports, see.
The adult Chinese pay, too, not that they care. The Chinese are all over Africa, investing in everything from commodities to construction. Locals say that they have less of a social conscience than the Americans or Europeans, and if there's a job to be done, they'll do it, regardless. And when the Chinese are in town, everyone benefits. China is already South Africa's biggest trade partner, and since the Chinese came to Lusaka, Zambia's capital has not only had massive investment for municipal projects, but has also been blessed with nine new casinos. (The previous regime in Iraq invested heavily here, too, and until the end of the first Iraq war, Lusaka had its own Saddam Hussein Boulevard – it has since been renamed Los Angeles Boulevard.)
For the tourist (us, in other words), Zambia is one of the more benign African states, a country where corruption at governmental level is still institutional, yet you can leave a fully-loaded shopping trolley in a supermarket for an hour without any fear of it being stolen. This should be an agricultural paradise, and the land is rich, a place where farmers produce 80 per cent of the food, and where everyone else exists on subsistence farming.
Zambia is home to a proud and polite people, a rural peasant class who sweep around the empty tins of tomatoes outside their huts as though they were stone pineapples (here, they act as status symbols). It is also the home of the walking safari, where you get to see southern Africa's wildlife at its very best. In the Luangwa National Park, if you're lucky you can see lion, leopard, elephant, puku, buffalo, hyena, hippo, baboon, giraffe and impala in the first 60 minutes.
There is a smell in Zambia that my wife – who's been here many times – describes as a mixture of musk and newly baked bread. It's a smell that makes you feel as though the West is a long way away, so far away in fact, you might never go back.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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