Kitwe Nights: Surfing the Heart of the Copperbelt

Kitwe CBD. Obote Avenue
By ‘Niyi David

Zambians love to have their fun. My cabbie told me that the weekend starts on Thursday evenings as we explored the capital, Lusaka. After a couple of crazy night outs, I wanted to see if the rest of the country offered the same kind of fun. So I headed up off to the Copperbelt region – Kitwe specifically.

Kitwe lies at an altitude of 1295m and it is the very heart of the Copperbelt, even though Ndola is the main city in the region. Located at a distance of about 368km from Lusaka (about a 5-hour drive from the capital of Zambia), Kitwe grew out of Nkana area where the first mining shaft was sunk in 1928. In 1932, copper smelting operations began and the growth of the mining industry gave birth to townships in 1935. A management board was instituted in 1951 and it was elevated to a Municipal Council in 1954.

I arrived Kitwe late afternoon. My plans was to take the first bus out of Lusaka and get there on time, but after another wild night at one of the clubs in Emmasdale I was grateful I could still use my ticket to board the next available bus. The journey to Kitwe was long and was grateful that I sat next to a young lady who helped me to locate my hotel after arriving at bus park near Obote Market. After checking into Hotel Edinburgh on Obote Avenue, I took a jaunt around to survey the area.

There’s that feeling of hesitation when you’re in a new place. It’s that cautious survey which gives you away easily. Well, Kitwe is unconcerned. Instead, the city blends you quickly into its day to day flow of life, as if you have always been a part of its existence. No one sees you are a stranger. It’s that kind of place that treats you with a familiarity that disarms you, giving you the liberty to search, explore and engage to the max.

Even with a different skin color, nobody pays you that extra bit of attention unlike other places where the scent of your arrival is picked up fast by locals who immediately start jostling to offer you all kinds of unsolicited assistance, or get you to buy some souvenir from them. That’s one great thing about Kitwe and it’s something that makes me want to go back there.

I returned to the hotel some 30 minutes later and took a nap, and by the time I woke up it was dark already. The sound of music got me up. It came from Hotel Edinburgh’s pool bar across the street, filtering through my open window. Earlier while fiddling with my camera, I had spotted the place.

After a quick shower it was time for night-surfing. I figured since the pool bar was close by, it should be my final port of call after getting a real feel of the city’s nocturnal ambience. It was not yet 20:00hrs but the plan was to be nearer to familiar territory as the night wore on. Being a stranger, it was just basic safety measures.

I took a cab and asked to be shown the best places for entertainment in town. The night was alive as taxis ran along the lit streets, getting patrons to their favorite clubs and joints. We checked out a couple of places as they were gradually filling up, and just like in Lusaka the people here too love to get down.

Club Leelove along Kwacha Road, Buchi Township is one of the happening clubs in town. The ambience was groovy and with good music from the DJ. If you are in Kitwe, Insomnia Chills on Kabengele Avenue in Nkana Central is a must. Yeah, you can thank me later.

However, it was at East Point Discotheque close to Kenneth Kaunda (Coronation) Square off President Avenue that I really got down to some fun. It wasn’t far from my hotel (less than a 10-mins walk), so maybe that’s why I was more at ease. I bought drinks for two young ladies who seem rather interested in me, but I wasn’t sure I was up for that much fun!

We found our way to the hotel pool bar on Obote Avenue where Naija sounds was blaring from the speakers and my two tipsy companions started the shoki dance moves. More drinks and with my refusal to share the spotlight on the dance floor with them, they found other willing partners as the crowd urged them on. As I made my escape out, another young woman tugged at my shirt. Without turning I handed out a 20 Kwacha note and crossed the street. It was almost 02:00hrs, the night surfer had tasks scheduled for the day…


This article first appeared in the “AT NIGHT” section of S.E.E. AFRICA® magazine (UGANDA edition), published in 2016 under the title KITWE: Night Surfing In The Heart Of The Copperbelt.

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