Gaborone rolls languidly along to its own time and nothing here happens in a hurry. Like so many African cities, Gaborone’s relatively recent origins stand in contrast to the timeless sense of rural Africa beyond city limits, and therein lies its charm. It’s a place to get a feel for the country—taste its cooking, learn its history, and shop its crafts—before heading out in search of wildlife and wild places.
When to Go
When you visit Gaborone is more likely determined by the seasons elsewhere in Botswana—the ebb and flow of rains and water levels in the Okavango Delta, the harsh summer sun in the Kalahari—than the weather in Gaborone itself. May or June through October is high season and the optimal time to visit the delta. The delta’s rainy season lasts from November to March or April, but this is high season in the Kalahari.
April and its Maitisong Festival is a terrific time to be in Gaborone. The country’s premier arts festival, it showcases local live performers, both established stars and up-and-coming artists, who take the stage alongside pan-African stars. It takes over the city for a week and the program ranges from dance and drama to comedy and live music.
What to Eat
Botswana’s local cuisine is not the world’s finest, with sorghum porridge (bogobe) forming the base of most meals, served with a sauce of local beef or mutton—you’ll find it on offer at roadside stands around town. Somewhat more exciting is guinea-fowl stew or hotpot, impala steaks, or barbecued meats offered at a handful of restaurants around town.
Souvenir to Take Home
Gaborone is more about malls than roiling African markets, but it’s still a catch-all for handicrafts from across the country. At Botswanacraft, a fair-trade craft emporium, ignore the Central African masks and West African textiles, and concentrate instead on the colorful pottery from Gabane and Thamaga (two towns close to the capital), San jewelry from the Kalahari made from ostrich eggshells, and colorful basketwork from across the country.
Sustainable Travel Tip
Attractions and restaurants here are pretty far-flung—sadly you’ll need your own four wheels to get around. Both for exploring the city and planning your safari, try and get a group together to minimize your individual ecological footprint.
Gaborone is flat and has few landmark buildings or viewpoints to catch the eye. The Three Dikgosi Monument is probably the best backdrop, as long as you can Photoshop out the surrounding office towers. Head instead to the Main Mall in downtown Gabs, purchase a bag of fat, fried mopane (woodland) worms, then pose in front of the nearest Botswana flag.