It’s called the Lake of Stars or Lake Nyasa or just Lake Malawi, but whatever it’s called, it dominates the country and is probably the biggest tourist attraction in the country. Safaris are the other. It’s an easy enough place to visit. It was once under the British, so everyone speaks English and Chichewa, the two main languages of the country.
I visited for work twice. Both times, I stayed for a few days for meetings in the capital city of Lilongwe and then moved out to the villages to speak with communities facing drought and flash floods.
My memories of Malawi are of visiting various government offices and interviewing its policy-makers, including United Nations Development Programme staff in Lilongwe, the Vice-President of Malawi at the time, the Environment Ministry, Department of International Development UK-Malawi staff and other outfits all involved in Climate change, agriculture and Food security. Field staff drove me for hours to have discussions with the communities where village women sat in discussions while their little ones breast-fed, glad with relief to get access to their mothers while they took a break from their agricultural and field work.
I try to buy something from every country I ever visit, as a memento of that visit. From Malawi, I have a wooden bowl with an elephant on it, and two sets of carved wooden spoons as a salad set. I remember trying Nsima – a dense lump of maize meal – that Malawians relish as a staple of every meal, the way Indians eat rice. If they don’t eat Nsima everyday, they consider themselves starved of food. They feel they haven’t eaten that day! I stayed in a couple of different hotesl in the capital city, but the best one that I recall is the very comfortable Sunbird Lilongwe hotel.
I never made it to the lake, but I made it across the border to Zambia and drought-suffering areas that hadn’t seen the rains in 3 years. I also got to see Victoria Falls – the Zambia side.
Visited 2007, 2009