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It was founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South-West Africa, and a sizable part of its population is still German-speaking today.The city lies on the B2 road and the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek to Walvis Bay. Buildings in the city include the Altes Gefängnis prison, designed by Heinrich Bause in 1909.Outside of the city, the Rossmund Desert Golf Course is one of only 5 all-grass desert golf courses in the world.Nearby lies a camel farm and the Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896 and abandoned in the desert due to breakdown. The name of the town is derived from the Nama word Tsoakhaub ("excrement opening") describing the Swakop River in flood carrying items in its riverbed, including dead animals, into the Atlantic Ocean.Many government offices for German South-West Africa had offices in Swakopmund.Soon, the harbour created by the Mole silted up, and in 1905 work was started on a wooden jetty, but in the long run this was inadequate.The German settlers changed it to Swachaub, and when in 1896 the district was officially proclaimed, the version Swakopmund (German: Mouth of the Swakop) was introduced.
Increased traffic between Germany and its colony necessitated establishing of own port as Walvis Bay, located 33 kilometres south, was already in British possession.The choice fell on Swakopmund where water could be found and because other sites checked (including Cape Cross) The majority of towns and villages in Namibia have grown out of indigenous settlements and very often were located close to sources of water.Names of places given by original inhabitants were very descriptive and in many cases those names were retained by European settles who sometimes simplified pronunciations of the names.Woermann-Linie, the operator of the shipping route to Germany, employed 600 Kru at that time.
Swakopmund quickly became the main port for imports and exports for the whole territory, and was one of six towns which received municipal status in 1909.
Nama word ''Tsoakhaub'' can be translated as ''excrement opening'' which was offensive but accurate description of the waters of Swakop River at the time of coming down in floods carrying masses of mud, sand, pieces of vegetation and animal corpses.