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Lusaka is a city whose bustling chaos has a certain charm which is quintessentially Zambia. The tourist passing through the capital may not see any reason to stay, but Lusaka is the product of a country battling to find its way in a new world, caught between colonial beginnings, years of socialist independence and now democracy. It typifies the problems many African countries face as they find their "independent" footing in a world that is surging ahead.

The fascinating thing about Lusaka is its energy. Not perhaps of the same ilk as that of New York City, but an African energy, propelled by that need to survive. Lusaka is as much a part of "the real Africa" as Zambia's rich national parks and stunning scenery. Well over 60% of its 2 million inhabitants are unemployed, but there are surprisingly few beggars. Although petty theft occurs, most people try to make an honest living, selling their wares or services, and smiling to boot. [cont.]

The markets are a hive of activity; the thousands of stalls being filled and cleared every day. A myriad of motor spares dealers, restaurants, hairdressers, fishmongers, fruit sellers and rows and rows of "salaula" - discarded clothing from the West sold to Africa by the bale.

But Lusaka is also a city undergoing a facelift. A walk around the city will reveal new shops - including a new market and a multi-million dollar shopping mall under construction, smart fast food outlets, new double carriageway roads, old buildings being refurbished and the transformation of the city's parks.