Sprawling MASERU, the nation's capital and only big town, spills east from the Caledon River, which marks the border with South Africa. Maseru was established by the British in 1869 as the administrative centre for newly annexed Basotholand, but Britain put as little effort into developing Maseru as it did the rest of the country, no doubt expecting it to become just a minor South African town when Basotholand was incorporated into South Africa.
Surrounded by sprawling shantytown suburbs, the city has grown swiftly over recent years, poverty in Lesotho's rural areas having driven people to the capital in search of a better life. Few have found it yet, and the city has a high unemployment rate. Yet Maseru's compact centre has all the marks of an upwardly mobile African city, with slick fashions and mobile phones much in evidence.
Most of the city's daytime action happens on or around Kingsway, the road which runs through town, becoming increasingly downmarket and lively as it heads east towards the cathedral. Compared to most towns and cities in South Africa, Maseru is relatively safe, and as long as you take the safety precautions you would in any other African city, you can walk around here comfortably by day. Walking around at night, however, is ill-advised, since the empty streets make wandering tourists fine targets for opportunistic muggers.