Dureb Caves

Useful Information

Location: Durem Mountain (Brandberg), 30 km from Uis, 40 min walk.
Open: after appointment.
Fee: yes.
Classification: Speleologyerosional cave
Light: n/a.
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1918 first cave painting discovered by a German prospector.
1990 main copper mine shut down.


The Dureb Mountain is Namibia's highest mountain, a granite massif rising up in the middle of the desert. A big amount of rock formations around the mountain, overhanging cliffs and small caves were once used by the indegneous inhabitants of the area, the Damara, as shelters. When it was discovered by the German colonists during the 19th century they called it Brandberg (burning mountain). Legend has it the name was choosen because of the intensive reddish colour the mountain becomes during sunset. In 1918 a German prospector discovered the first cave paintings in one of the shelters. As a result the world famous archeologist and cave painting specialist Abbe Henri Breuil visited the site and was impressed by the paintings. However, they never became a tourist site, probably a result of the remote location.

Later copper ore was discovered in the area and the mining was the source of income for many people of the area, who lived mainly in Uis. But when the mines started to shut down around 1990 an exodus from the town began. The people who stayed had no income and were poor. But now things changed again, the locals discovered the potential of the cave paintings to help them earn a living. They started to offer visits to the shelters for tourists. The Namibian government encouraged such local initiatives since 1995 and some 50 communities have by now started such conservancies which devolve authority over wildlife and tourism to local residents. The locals are trained in history, geology, astronomy, management and ecology, provided by a semi-private foundation. As a result of this initiative some 10,000 people who left after the mine was closed have now returned.

The most important painting is the so-called White Lady, a long white human pictograph, half-man, half-animal spirits. It was explained by Henri Breuil a white woman, as he saw similarities to Cretan paintings, hence the name. But the locals, descendants of the Damabs, have a different explanation. They say it was the picture of a witch doctor, a Gamab, conducting a ceremony to cure a sick person. Gamab means the men who can heal, make rain and bring good fortune. During the rituals they painted their bodies with a white powder made of crushed bones