Karas, Namibia | C.1908

Photo Credit: Alina Rudya

Kolmanskop is a ghost town in southern Namibia. In 1908, miner Zacharias Lewala found a diamond while working in the area. Shortly after its legitimacy was confirmed, diamond miners from Germany—which colonized Namibia at the time—descended upon Kolmanskop.

The earliest arrivals were rewarded with significant wealth. The residents built up the village in the architectural style of a German town. A hospital boasting the first X-ray station in the southern hemisphere soon sprung up—followed by a power station, school, casino, ballroom, and the first tram in Africa, which linked the growing town to Lüderitz, on the coast. European opera troupes and various artists came to perform for the affluent, eccentric colonists of Kolmanskop.

After World War II, the diamond field grew depleted. Many of the town’s inhabitants rushed south, where larger diamond deposits had been discovered. The town was ultimately abandoned in 1956—only a few decades after its peak: the days when a lazy shuffle through the sand could yield pure diamonds.

In 2002, a local private company began to manage Kolmanskop as a tourist attraction, busing visitors in to explore and photograph the mysterious, sand-covered town. Today, about 35,000 visitors explore the surreal site each year, giving people the opportunity to marvel at how swiftly sand moves through the hourglass of time, and the doorframes of unattended homes.

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