Maun, the fifth largest town in Botswana, is known as the tourism capital and the gateway to the Okavango Delta. It is an eclectic contrast of modern buildings and traditional huts. Now home to over 30 000people, the town was founded in 1915 as the tribal capital of the Batawana people. It originally serviced the local cattle ranching and hunting operations of the area, and had a reputation as a hard-living ‘Wild West’ town. With the growth of the tourism industry and the completion of the tar road from Nata in the early 1990s, Maun developed swiftly, losing much of its old town character. However, it is still infamous for its infestation of donkeys and to lesser extent, goats. These animals can be seen wandering around freely as the local farmers arrive in the innumerable taxis to sell their wares on the kerbside.
With the influx of tourism dollars, the typical traditional rondavels (round huts) of the past have been replaced by square but modestly sized cinderblock homes roofed with tin, or sometimes tiles. It is not unusual to see mud rondavels with satellite dishes, attesting to the increasing affluence of Botswana, and the increasing reliability of power and communications in the town. This striking contrast of the traditional and the modern is also evident in the multi-level air-conditioned shopping centres incongruously surrounded by potholes, dusty parking lots and lively market places.