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Blantyre Limbe, Malawi

Blantyre is the business centre of the country and the biggest city of Malawi. The largest urban area in Malawi, the metropolis 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 unquestionably the centre of Malawi’s industry and commerce. Strictly 2 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. In the evening, L'Hosteria Restaurant and the Twiga Lounge come into their own.

Blantyre city lies in a hilly area hence have varied topography ranging from an elevation of about 780 to 1,612 metres above sea level. There are three main types of topographical features, which have major implications for the development of the city,and comprise the hills, plateaux and ridge and the natural drainage system. The most conspicuous and dominant physical feature of the city is the numerous residual hills which are found in all parts of the city. The main hills are the headwaters of several rivers and streams which originate and radiate from the city, forming a natural drainage system with 9 distinct catchment areas namely, Likhubula, Lunzu, Mombezi and Khombwi, which drain the northern part of the city, and Mudi, Chisombezi, Limbe, Luchenza and Mwampanzi draining the middle and southern parts. Because of the hilly topography, these natural drainage channels are narrow and have steep sides and gradients. The plateaux and ridge comprises all the land which is suitable for urban development including extensive relatively flat land, the mountain piedmonts and plains,and long narrow watersheds and strips of land which separate the rivers and streams.

Blantyre has a number of historical buildings of interest. These 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. Perhaps the most impressive is St Michael and All Angels church, built by men with no training in architecture, construction or even brick-making. Visits can also be made to the Museum of Malawi and Carlsberg Brewery, which lie bewteen 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. Blantyre-Limbe has its own international airport at Chileka.

The climate of Blantyre is greatly influenced by its location within the tropical zone and altitude. The city experiences the Tropical Continental Climate with two distinct seasons in the year. The rainy season is from November to April, with a continuation inform of light cold showers locally known as ‘Chiperoni’ from end of May to July. The dry season is from May to October. There is a choice of hotels but the two largest, which provide top-class accommodation, are the Protea Hotel Ryalls and the Sunbird Mount Soche. Alternative lodge accommodation is offered by Fisherman's Rest, just a 20 minute drive to the south-west of Blantyre, overlooking the Lower Shire Valley. Leaving the city to the south quickly leads to the new Game Haven lodge, and on to Thyolo.

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