High in the mountains of Southern Africa, unique in that it is an independent nation completely surrounded by South Africa, is the Kingdom of Lesotho — the Kingdom in the Sky. An extraordinary country that provides spectacular mountain scenery as a backdrop to some of the most exciting holiday activities in Africa, Lesotho offers the chance to enjoy Africa’s majestic beauty, the simplicity of a mountain people, and a serene quality of life for discerning travellers from all over the world. A magnificent opportunity to explore nature still little changed by man, still unspoilt by crowds of tourists, and to appreciate the untamed but beautiful landscapes of the soaring Maluti and Drakensberg mountains. The invigorating mountain air, spectacular panoramas of rocky crags, deep valleys and fields of alpine flowers, and the warm welcome of the Basotho people, set Lesotho apart as a special holiday destination.
Area: 30 355 km2.
Population: 1 867 035 people (2007)
Official Language: English, South Sotho
The earliest known inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by Wasja-speaking tribes during Bantu migrations. The Sotho-Tswana people colonized the general region of South Africa between the 3rd and 11th centuries.
The present Lesotho (then called Basutoland) emerged as a single polity under king Moshoeshoe I in 1822. Moshoeshoe, a son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Bakoteli lineage, formed his own clan and became a chief around 1804. Between 1821 and 1823, he and his followers settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain, joining with former adversaries in resistance against the Lifaqane associated with the reign of Shaka Zulu from 1818 to 1828.
Lesotho covers 30,355 km2 (11,720 sq mi). It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,906 ft). Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world and is entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa. It lies between latitudes 28° and 31°S, and longitudes 27° and 30°E
Because of its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Most of the rain falls as summer thunderstorms. Maseru and surrounding lowlands often reach 30 °C (86 °F) in summer. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (−0 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.
The Lesotho Government is a parliamentary or constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Tom Motsoahae Thabane, is head of government and has executive authority. The king serves a largely ceremonial function; he no longer possesses any executive authority and is prohibited from actively participating in political initiatives.
Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The economy of Lesotho is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining, and depends heavily on inflows of workers’ remittances and receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The majority of households subsist on farming. The formal sector employment consist of mainly the female workers in the apparel sector, the male migrant labor, primarily miners in South Africa for 3 to 9 months and employment in the Government of Lesotho (GOL). The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earn income through informal crop cultivation or animal husbandry with nearly two-thirds of the country’s income coming from the agricultural sector. The percentage of the population living below USD Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) US$1.25/day fell from 48 percent to 44 percent between 1995 and 2003. The country is still among the “Low Human Development” countries (rank 160 of 187 on the Human Development Index) as classified by the UNDP, with 48.2 years of life expectancy at birth. However, adult literacy is very high – 82% and children under weight aged under 5 is only 20%.
Lesotho is severely afflicted by HIV/AIDS. In urban areas, about 50% of women under 40 have HIV.
Traditional musical instruments include lekolulo, a kind of flute used by herding boys, setolo-tolo, played by men using their mouth, and the woman’s stringed thomo.
The national anthem of Lesotho is “Lesotho Fatše La Bo-ntata Rona“, which literally translates into “Lesotho, Land Of Our Fore-Fathers”.
The traditional style of housing in Lesotho is called a mokhoro. Many older houses, especially in smaller towns and villages, are of this type, with walls usually constructed from large stones cemented together. Baked mud bricks and especially concrete blocks are also used nowadays, with thatched roofs still common, although often replaced by corrugated roofing sheets.
Traditional attire revolves around the Basotho blanket, a thick covering made primarily of wool. The blankets are ubiquitous throughout the country during all seasons, and worn differently for men and women.
The Morija Arts & Cultural Festival is a prominent Sesotho arts and music festival. It is held annually in the historical town of Morija, where the first missionaries arrived in 1833.
The country of Lesotho is home to several languages, including English, Phuthi, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu
The population of Lesotho is estimated to be around 90% Christian. Protestants represent 45% of the population (Evangelicals 26%, and Anglican and other Protestant groups an additional 19%), and Roman Catholics represent 45 percent of the population. Members of other religions (Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i, and members of traditional indigenous religions) comprise the remaining 10% of the population.
Cuisine of Lesotho and that of its neighboring countries is often referred to as ‘rainbow cuisine’. Cuisine of Lesotho has earned this popular nickname as the culinary practices followed in this country as in other South African countries are largely indicative of polyglot cuisines. The multicultural influence of the cooking style of indigenous Black people along with those of other immigrants such as Indians, Malaya and Europeans on the Cuisine of Lesotho has given it a distinct flavor.
Flora and Fauna
The loti (plural: maloti) is the currency of the Kingdom of Lesotho. It is subdivided into 100 lisente (sg. sente). It is pegged to the South African rand on a 1:1 basis through the Common Monetary Area, and both are accepted as legal tender within Lesotho. The loti was first issued in 1966, albeit as a non-circulating currency. In 1980, Lesotho issued its first coins denominated in both loti and lisente to replace the South African rand as legal tender.
Lesotho has a population of approximately 2,067,000. The population distribution of Lesotho is 25% urban and 75% rural. However, it is estimated that annual increase of urban population is 3.5%. Population density is lower in the highlands than in the western lowlands. Although the majority of the population—60.2%—is between 15 and 64 years of age, Lesotho has a substantial youth population numbering around 34.8%.
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