Lilongwe became Malawi’s capital in 1975, a role previously filled by Zomba. It owes its status to Dr Hastings Banda, the country’s first President, who was born just north of the town. The Old Town is distinct and separate from the new Capital City. While the former has all the appearance of a traditional African settlement, the City has much in common with other twentieth-century urban developments around the world. Its gleaming modern buildings in their spacious garden-like setting, contrast with the hustle and bustle of Old Town. Both parts of the town are worth touring.
Lilongwe’s range of services and facilities is unsurpassed except, possibly, in Blantyre. Of the modern shopping precincts, Old Town Mall is the best, particularly for those looking for quality souvenirs. As well as African Habitat, with its locally crafted ornaments and furnishings, there is one of Central Africana's galleries: full of fascinating books and modern and historical maps and prints.