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Windhoek is a city of many contrasts. Modern skyscrapers blend with historic buildings dating from the turn of the century. Pavement displays ofafrican drums and wood carvings from the north view ith elegant shops offering sophisticated Sakara garments and the Namibian gemstones set in individually designed pieces of jewellery. While some shops display clothing, silver and glassware imported from Europe, others offer casual and colourful clothes from West Africa.

A special feature are Windhoek's sidewalk cafes, where Namib ian style breakfasts known as Fruhschoppen can be enjoyed with a glass of chilled, sparkling wine or draught beer. Namibia's excellent range of locally brewed beers can be enjoyed at several traditional beer gardens. In addition to steak houses and coffee bars serving snacks, the city has a wide range of a la carte restaurants which also offer German, French, Korean, Italian, Spanish, African and Chinese cuisine.

Public transport consists mainly of taxis, while a bus service provides transport between Katutura and Khomasdal to Windhoek and its various suburbs.

Because of the area's plentiful hot springs Windhoek was initially known as Ai-gams, a Nama word meaning "fire water", "steam" or "smoke" and Otjomuise, a Herero word meaning the "place of steam". The Nama captain Jan Jonker Afrikaner gave the town the name it carries today. In the early 1840s he settled where the most persul spring reached the surface. It is thought that, in a moment of nostalgia, he named the place after Winterhoek, the farm in the Cape where he was born. During the German colonial administration the town was known as Windhuk, which later became Windhoek.

Windhoek's main street is Independence Avenue, referred to before independence as Kaiser street. The buildings in the Post Street Mall, completed shortly after independence, blend with Windhoek's historic German architecture, except for the use of bright colours such as blue, pink, cerise and purple. The Mall has a large number of shops and boutiques, and is a favoured venue for street vendors selling rural art, african clothing, curios and jewellery.