Rather like Rehoboth, to the north, MARIENTAL, the low-key administrative centre for the Hardap region, has little to detain the average tourist beyond the usual supermarkets and petrol stations for replenishing supplies and fuel. Indeed, it resembles a glorified industrial estate. That said, the town has several acceptable places to stay if you’re in need of a bed for the night, though there are lodges and reserves in the red dunes of the Kalahari, only an hour’s drive away that are infinitely more preferable if you’re looking for recreation.
In classic colonial fashion, Mariental, meaning “Marie’s Valley”, was named in honour of the wife of the first white settler, a William Brandt, though the notion of a valley was clearly somewhat fanciful. In contrast, the Nama, who had been around for considerably longer, called the place Zara-gaeiba, meaning “dusty”, aptly nailing the location’s defining characteristic. Indeed, on Sundays, the swirling dust is about the only sign of life in town.
That said, a 15km belt of lush commercial farmland west of Mariental runs parallel to the B1. The Fish River flows through the area from the Hardap Dam northwest of the town, and provides further water for irrigation. The farms focus on sheep, goats, game – especially ostrich – and dairy, as well as the production of alfalfa (more commonly termed lucerne).