By now, you have seen reports on the news of once-thriving cityscapes and bustling urban areas reduced to stagnant wastelands as COVID-19 coronavirus infections spread. New York’s Time Square and Piccadilly Circus in London, two neighborhoods typically choked with throngs of people all day and every day, currently stand vacant. These images are not too dissimilar to the desolate views of Kolmanskop, a ghost town in southern Africa’s Namib Desert.
During its heyday in the 1920s, Kolmanskop, a once-thriving mining town in southern Namibia, was virtually teeming with diamonds ripe for the picking. Wealth was abundant, and the area was expectedly outfitted with numerous contemporary luxuries for residents and tourists alike, including a hospital, staffed by German doctors; an ice factory; a pub; an alley for skittle (a game similar to lawn-bowling); and a renowned music hall, which served as a popular venue for European opera and performing arts companies.
But the diamond boon was not to last. By 1928, townspeople fled in droves toward richer gem fields in the south. By 1956, the town itself was completely abandoned—and its contents have remained in place ever since. Today, the luxurious homes are abandoned; their interiors, flooded with windswept sand dunes, stand in stark contrast to their former glory days.
Despite the structural damage to houses, the Namib Desert’s incredibly arid temperatures manage to uphold the existing look of the rooms, leaving the wallpaper and paint in a chilling state of preservation. The landscape serves as a surreal reminder of the fickleness of man, as well as a horrifying foreshadowing of environmental decay and what the world might look like once all of its residents inexplicably disappear.
Currently owned and maintained as a tourist attraction, visitors to Kolmanskop require permits and are only granted access as part of guided tours.