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Blantyre, Malawi

The largest urban area in Malawi, the conurbation of Blantyre & Limbe, is the country’s commercial capital. Now with a population in excess of half a million, this settlement has its origins with the Scottish missionaries from the time of David Livingstone. (It is named after Livingstone’s birthplace in Scotland.) Today it is the centre of Malawi’s industry and commerce. Strictly two towns, Limbe and Blantyre form a continuous urban area yet retain their individualities and separate cores. Blantyre has the status and much of the administrative functions but Limbe is the more industrial.

Much of the city’s recent development has been between the traditional centres of Blantyre and Limbe. New shopping precincts have been built, with one even boasting a cinema. A smaller mall, but one offering high quality mementoes of Malawi, is the Ute Waleza Centre, off Kidney Cresent. During the day, shops which are a must include African Habitat, with its locally crafted ornaments and furnishings, and the Central Africana gallery: full of fascinating books and modern and historical maps and prints. Crafts & curios can also be bought from street-side stalls in the city centre.

Blantyre has a number of historical buildings of interest. Perhaps the most impressive is St Michael and All Angels church, built by men with no training in architecture, construction or even brick-making. Others include the original town hall (Old Boma) and Mandala House, built in 1882 as the headquarter of the African Lakes Company. It was Malawi’s first two-storey building and is believed now to be the country’s oldest house. Mandala House is home to the The Society of Malawi which protects and nourishes a true treasure trove of the country’s history. With thousands of books and resources safely stored away, it provides an opportunity to find out a bit more about Malawi that perhaps many tourists don’t ever discover.

Visits can also be made to the Museum of Malawi and Carlsberg Brewery, which lie between the two town centres, as well as the tobacco auction floors on the edge of Limbe. Both towns have a good range of shops, markets and services and there is even an old colonial golf club on the western edge of Blantyre. The airport out at Chileka the international arrivals and departures through the week.

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