Maseru, on the River Caledon close to the western border with South Africa, is Lesotho’s capital and only major city.
Mshweshwe I, a Basotho chief, settled the town in the 1860s and in 1869 it was chosen by the British to be the administrative seat of Basutoland. Relieved of that title in 1871, it was again capital from 1884 until independence in 1966. It then became capital of independent Lesotho and since the 1970s has undergone a period of rapid expansion. In 1998 a fire destroyed much of the commercial centre, which has subsequently been rebuilt.
A branch line links Maseru with the South African railway system, and most of Lesotho’s main paved roads converge on the city. The airport, 40 km away from the centre, offers internal services as well as flights to South Africa. Buses run within the city.
There are some small manufacturing industries, such as rugs and soap. The University of Lesotho is based in Roma, not far from the city.
Places of Interest
Kingsway is the main thoroughfare through the city and was for a long time the country’s only paved road. The Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Victories is among the city’s most prominent sights. Just outside the city centre is the Papal Pavilion, built to commemorate a papal visit. There are several weaving centres popular with tourists while Lancer’s Gap, the scene of a famous nineteenth century victory over British forces, offers unrivalled views of Maseru.