Fifty kilometers north of Karibib, lies the small town of Omaruru on the Omaruru River. Although the river is usually dry, apart from a few puddles here and there, Omaruru appears quite lush and green due to an abundant groundwater supply.
The history of Omaruru is closely linked to the history of the Western Herero, who arrived mid-18th century with their herds of cattle from the Kaokoveld down south to settle. The missionary Gottlieb Viehe, came in 1872 from Otjimbingwe – the mission center of the Rhenish Church 100 kilometers south – and built the mission house. Viehe translated the Bible into the Herero language and succeeded in converting many Herero in the Omaruru region to Christianity, even their chief Wilhelm Zeraua.
Around the turn of the century, German settlers became interested in the Omaruru region and started establishing farms, mostly along the banks of the river where the soil was most fertile. A 20-men strong garrison of the Schutztruppe was stationed in Omaruru for the protection of the settlers.
In January 1904, the violent uprising of the Herero people in Namibia started and Omaruru was strongly affected. The Herero raided the farms and surrounded the town. The Schutztruppe had left just shortly before to Gibeon, 400 kilometers south. Captain Viktor Franke, commander of the Omaruru company, returned with his men immediately after news of the uprising was received via heliograph. After a forced march of only five days, he managed to bring relief; first to Windhoek and then to Okahandja and eventually, he broke through the besieging ring around Omaruru to free the settlers. The watchtower dates back to the year 1908 when it was built in case of future attacks. To honor Captain Viktor Franke it was named after him.
The social climate in Omaruru is undergoing changes today. The traditional occupants are being joined by a growing number of artists and crafters who give the town a modern and almost cosmopolitan flair. The new arts&crafts center “Sand Dragon” in Main Road is outstanding and was created by Karen Johnston; an American artist and jewelry designer, and her family. It is an enchanting and intricately designed fantasy; rivaled by none in Southern Africa.
The descendants of Lothar von Trotha and the von Trotha family traveled to Omaruru in October 2007 by invitation of the royal Herero chiefs and publicly apologized for his role in the Herero Genocide.