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Africa: Africa Geography Report





Africa Geography Report

Africa is the largest of the three great southward projections from the largest landmass of the Earth. Separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, it is joined to Asia at its northeast extremity by the Isthmus of Suez (transected by the Suez Canal), 163 km (101 miles) wide. (Geopolitically, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula east of the Suez Canal is often considered part of Africa, as well.) From the most northerly point, Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia (37°21' N), to the most southerly point, Cape Agulhas in South Africa (34°51'15" S), is a distance of approximately 8,000 km (5,000 miles); from Cape Verde, 17°33'22" W, the westernmost point, to Ras Hafun in Somalia, 51°27'52" E, the most easterly projection, is a distance of approximately 7,400 km (4,600 miles). The coastline is 26,000 km (16,100 miles) long, and the absence of deep indentations of the shore is illustrated by the fact that Europe, which covers only 10,400,000 km² (4,010,000 square miles) – about a third of the surface of Africa – has a coastline of 32,000 km (19,800 miles).

Africa's largest country is Sudan, and its smallest country is the Seychelles, an archipelago off the east coast. The smallest nation on the continental mainland is The Gambia.

According to the ancient Romans, Africa lay to the west of Egypt, while "Asia" was used to refer to Anatolia and lands to the east. A definite line was drawn between the two continents by the geographer Ptolemy (85–165 AD), indicating Alexandria along the Prime Meridian and making the isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea the boundary between Asia and Africa. As Europeans came to understand the real extent of the continent, the idea of Africa expanded with their knowledge.

Geologically, Africa includes the Arabian Peninsula; the Zagros Mountains of Iran and the Anatolian Plateau of Turkey mark where the African Plate collided with Eurasia. The Afrotropic ecozone and the Saharo-Arabian desert to its north unite the region biogeographically, and the Afro-Asiatic language family unites the north linguistically.

Botswana's Kalahari desert is home to one of the Africa's most unique cultures, the resourceful bushmen who have lived there for thousands of years. More of a plain than a desert, the Kalahari is an optimum safari region. 

Cote d'Ivoire

Cote d'Ivoire, more off the beaten path, is especially renowned for its Senoufo and Dan people, both of which produce some of Africa's finest craft work. 

The seat of the powerful Ashanti empire and the cornerstone of the gold, slave, and ivory trade, Ghana was especially coveted for years by imperial Europe, and every country with a navy seems to have left a fort behind. Cote d'Ivoire, more off the beaten path, is especially renowned for its Senoufo and Dan people, both of which produce some of Africa's finest craft work.

The queen of safari, Kenya is by far the most popular safari destination in the world. Its national parks are as exceptional as their reputations, and the Maasai Mara marks the beginning of the immense serengeti, known for its cats and colossal herds of migrating wildebeest. Kenya also blesses trekkers with the continent's second highest mountain, Mt. Kenya

Timbuktu, the legendary city on the banks of the Niger River, rose up on the gold and ivory trade, and it was once the richest city in Africa. Today, an especially attractive aspect of Mali is its cultural wealth, which is perhaps most visible in the masterful artwork of its native people, the Dogon. 

A trekker's paradise with four magnificent ranges of the Atlas mountains, Morocco also harbors the urban adventures of Fes and Marakesh, cities that entrance the soul with their serpentine alleyways and arabesque skylines.  

Namibia, with its grand coastal desert and Kaoko Veld, is a land of breathtaking landscapes. In the north of the country is the famous birdwatcher's mecca, Etosha National Park. 

Its Biblical sites have drawn spiritual pilgrims through the wadis and the waters of the Sinai Peninsula for nearly 2,000 years, but Sinai today is anything but the barren prison it was for Moses and the Isrealites. For scuba divers, in fact, the coral reefs of the Red Sea are an absolute paradise. 

South Africa 
For those who wish to safari in style, South Africa has some marvelously developed parks. The Kalahari Gemsbrook and Kruger national parks are some of the richest and most accessible in Africa. The landscape of South Africa is also known for its variety, offering many options for adventure. 

Tanzania's incredible Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks are home to more game animals than anywhere in the world, and it is in Tanzania that we find the physical soul of Africa, the towering Mt. Kilimanjaro. Off Tanzania's coast, in the Indian Ocean, are the lush forests and poetic citadels of Zanzibar, an island which has changed little since its heyday as East Africa's primary gateway and trading post. 

Zimbabwe is a wonderland of water. Once thought to be the mythic site of King Solomon's mines, Zimbabwe's real wealth can be found in the roaring splendor of Victoria Falls. Some of the world's best whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River.


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Lying almost entirely within the tropics, and equally to north and south of the equator, Africa does not show excessive variations of temperature.

Great heat is experienced in the lower plains and desert regions of North Africa, removed by the great width of the continent from the influence of the ocean, and here, too, the contrast between day and night, and between summer and winter, is greatest. (The rarity of the air and the great radiation during the night cause the temperature in the Sahara to fall occasionally to freezing point.)

Farther south, the heat is to some extent modified by the moisture brought from the ocean, and by the greater elevation of a large part of the surface, especially in East Africa, where the range of temperature is wider than in the Congo basin or on the coast.

In the extreme north and south the climate is a warm temperate one, the northern countries being on the whole hotter and drier than those in the southern zone; the south of the continent being narrower than the north, the influence of the surrounding ocean is more felt.

The most important climatic differences are due to variations in the amount of rainfall. The wide heated plains of the Sahara, and in a lesser degree the corresponding zone of the Kalahari in the south, have an exceedingly scanty rainfall, the winds which blow over them from the ocean losing part of their moisture as they pass over the outer highlands, and becoming constantly drier owing to the heating effects of the burning soil of the interior; while the scarcity of mountain ranges in the more central parts likewise tends to prevent condensation. In the inter-tropical zone of summer precipitation, the rainfall is greatest when the sun is vertical or soon after. It is therefore greatest of all near the equator, where the sun is twice vertical, and less in the direction of both tropics.

The rainfall zones are, however, somewhat deflected from a due west-to-east direction, the drier northern conditions extending southwards along the east coast, and those of the south northwards along the west. Within the equatorial zone certain areas, especially on the shores of the Gulf of and in the upper Nile basin, have an intensified rainfall, but this rarely approaches that of the rainiest regions of the world. The rainiest district in all Africa is a strip of coastland west of Mount Cameroon, where there is a mean annual rainfall of about 390 in (9,906 mm) as compared with a mean of 458 in (11,600 mm) at Cherrapunji, in Meghalaya, India.

The two distinct rainy seasons of the equatorial zone, where the sun is vertical at half-yearly intervals, become gradually merged into one in the direction of the tropics, where the sun is overhead but once. Snow falls on all the higher mountain ranges, and on the highest the climate is thoroughly Alpine.

The countries bordering the Sahara are much exposed to a very dry wind, full of fine particles of sand, blowing from the desert towards the sea. Known in Egypt as the khamsin, on the Mediterranean as the sirocco, it is called on the coast the harmattan. This wind is not invariably hot; its great dryness causes so much evaporation that cold is not infrequently the result. Similar dry winds blow from the Kalahari Desert in the south. On the eastern coast the monsoons of the Indian Ocean are regularly felt, and on the southeast hurricanes are occasionally experienced.


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