Introducing Africa

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Big and full of mystery and diversity, Africa is the second largest continent, yet has only 10% of the world’s population. Over 1,000 different languages have been identified and countless tribes recognized. Africa is complex, yet simple, comfortable, yet peculiar, unique and a challenge to any traveler.

For the international traveler and adventure seeker there is one name more than any other that conjures up images of exotic travel. From the pyramids of Egypt to the Winelands of the Cape there is no continent quite so rich with spectacular variety as Africa. This is the land of the Sahara Desert, of the Central African snowcaps, Kilimanjaro and the Mountains of the Moon. It is the Source of the Nile, the home of the open plains, thundering hooves, palm fringed coastlines, jostling dhows and exotic islands. Africa is a book that once opened can never be closed. It is a destination that creeps under the skin, and if you visit once you will be compelled time and again to return.

Africa has 54 sovereign countries—the most on any continent—and is the second largest continent in terms of both land area and population. Africa is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by the Red Sea to the northeast, by the Gulf of Aden slightly further south, and by the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Africa is a vast continent spanning over 8,000 km (5,000 mi) north-south and 7,500 km (4,800 mi) east-west (not including islands) and contains a wide array of peoples, skin colours, religions, and cultures.

Africa contains the world's longest river—the 6,650 km-long (4,100+ mi) Nile River running from Burundi to Egypt—while the Congo River in the DRC is the second largest in terms of discharge as well as the deepest with a depth of over 230 m (750 ft) in some spots. Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest free-standing mountain at 5,890 m (19,340 ft). Djibouti's Lake Assal is the second lowest point on Earth, the saltiest lake outside Antarctica, and one of the hottest places on Earth. While the first activity most people associate with Africa is safaris, there are endless possibilities for adventure. You can purchase crafts in markets, venture into the Sahara with a Tuareg caravan, visit BaAka ("Pygmy") villages, hike through jungle to watch gorillas, relax on tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, snack on exotic treats, travel down a river in a dugout "pirogue", travel across savanna on a colonial-era railway, and much more.

Africa is a very diverse continent, with each country, or even each part of a country having its own unique culture. While it is common for people in the West to refer to Africa as if it was a single country, one should remember the sheer size of the continent, and that Africa is not one country but 54 different countries, meaning that it is impossible to make generalisations about Africa as a whole. Also due to the nature of colonial borders most African countries are anything but homogeneous (South Africa for example has 11 official languages) and culture, cuisine, language or even the dominant religion may change dramatically within a few hundred kilometers without ever crossing a border.

Despite rapidly growing economies in many places, there are still many packets of poverty in both the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa today is a vast continent with many bustling metropolises, friendly people and amazingly diverse and beautiful landscapes. While poverty, corruption and ethnic as well religious violence exist in some parts of the continent, big parts of Africa have made impressive progress and many cities have growing middle classes and deal with problems such as traffic jams or crowded public transport rather than the war or poverty you might have heard about in some 80s documentary or development aid commercial. Africa is also one of the world's most multicultural places and more often than not diverse African, European and Asian elements come together peacefully to form something new and unique rather than clashing violently.

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