Lilongwe became Malawi’s capital in 1975, a role previously filled by Zomba. It owes its status to Dr Hastings Banda, the country’s first President, who was born just north of the town. The Old Town is distinct and separate from the new Capital City. While the former has all the appearance of a traditional African settlement, the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world. Its gleaming modern buildings in their spacious garden-like settings, contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Old Town. Both of these different parts of the town are worth touring. The modern shops of the City are complemented by the busy streets and walled market of Old Town, which even still has its golf club from colonial times. Lilongwe’s range of services and facilities is unsurpassed except, possibly, in Blantyre. Of the modern shopping precincts, Old Town Mall is the best, particularly for those looking for quality souvenirs. As well as African Habitat, with its locally crafted ornaments and furnishings, there is one of Central Africana’s galleries: full of fascinating books and modern and historical maps and prints. Lilongwe has a growing music scene and is the best place in the country to sample Malawi nightlife.
The Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary lies between the Old and New towns, a remarkable area where nature still rules, in the heart of an African capital city. Within the Sanctuary is the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre – Malawi’s only sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals. It is also the worlds first accredited “People & Wildlife” PAW centre, working with the local people with the key objective of promoting nature conservation that will benefit both the people and wildlife of Malawi.