Lumela, welcome to Lesotho, the "kingdom in the sky"!
Lesotho is the land of the Drakensberg. The hills of the Drakensberg remind of the back of a sleeping dragon. Perhaps that's why the Basotho know many stories about legendary creatures that once roamed their realm.
Locations and Landscapes
Lesotho is one of the highest countries and is entirely landlocked by South Africa. It is situated in the Maluti mountains, that are the other side of the Drakensberg. Lesotho has 300 days of sunshine. The rainy season extends from October to April. In winter from May to September extensive snow falls are possible. It is amazing, that inspite of the cold most huts and houses don't have heating.
Maseru is the capital and largest city of Lesotho. It is located on the Caledon River, situated on the Lesotho-South Africa border. The city was established as a police camp, today it is a modern town with banks, textile industry and flour mills. It has approcimately 300 000 inhabitants. In Maseru, there is the bustling of the local market, when farmers are offering their fruit and livestock, and traders present kitchenware, tools and colorful blankets.
Peoples and Languages
The Basotho are a Bantu speaking people. Isolated in the mountainous world of the Maluti mountains they have preserved their old traditions. The language is Sesotho, but most of the people also speak English. They are a predominantly rural population that survives on subsistence farming. They are a friendly and welcoming people. Most of them are Christian. The Basotho people are famous for the Basotho hat, which is also a symbol on the flag of Lesotho. Traditional musical instruments include lekolulo, a kind of flute used by herding boys.
Festivals and Festivities
Independence Day on 4th of October celebrates the day that Lesotho achieved independence from the British Empire. Moshoeshoe Day an 14th March celebrates the life of the founding father of the country. In Maseru, the procession involves many people dressed up in Lesotho's vibrant and colourful traditional dress, usually comprising blankets and sticks and if you're lucky, the cat hat!
Schools and Education
Almost all Basotho are literate, education is compulsory. The Government of Lesotho is implementing a program for free primary education. The children are educated in English and Sesotho. Most of the schools are not in good condition, there is a lack of well-trained teachers, books and teaching materials. But the government makes great efforts to improve the schooling. The favorite sport is football, for boys and also for girls. By the way: the nickname of the Sesotho Premiere League is likuena, which means "crocodiles".
Animals of Lesotho
The Lesothosaurus, the dinosaur of Lesotho is extincted, but its traces can still be visited today! The fossils of an unknown dinosaur were discovered in 1978. The Lesothosaurus lived in the early Jurassic period, about 200 million years ago. The Lesothosaurus was an early birdhipped dino, it was small and lightly built. It was about 1 m long and would have come up to the thigh of a 2 m person. The dino was lizard-like in that it walked on two long legs and short arms. He had a small head, these dinos were herbivores and had teeth designed for shredding plants.
Any trip to Lesotho is highlighted by a visit to Katse Dam. Activities at Katse can include any of the following: tour of the dam wall, a boat trip on Katse Dam, a wander around Katse Botanical gardens or a couples of hours of horse riding. Rock art of the San people can be found in many places throughout the country, the most impressive are within Liphofung Cave. Well-preserved dinosaur footprints exist around the country; the most accessible are near Moyeni and Morija. Pony-Trekking at the Basotho Pony-Trekking Centre is an enjoyable way to see the Lesotho countryside!
Economy and Natural Resources
In centuries gone by, the people of Lesotho have repeated a solitary and isolated life, mainly farming, ever since. Two-thirds of the country's income is coming from the agriculture. Natural resources are diamonds and water. Water is utilised through the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which transfers water from the Orange River to South Africa, especially to the greater Johannesburg area.
The first inhabitants of Lesotho were the San, who left their traces in many rock paintings. The Sotho-Tswana people moved into the area only a thousand years later. They lived in what is now South Africa. They were a farming people. When the Zulus started attacking villages, they fled up into the Lesotho mountains. Here, continuous attacks from the Zulus forced local tribes to join together for protection. By 1824, King Moeshoeshoe had established himself as king. He lived in Thaba Bosiu, a mountain fortress near by Maseru. The locals called it mountain of the night believing the mountain would grow during the night making it impossible for enemies to attack the kingdom.
Lesotho became a Protectorate of the British Empire
Moeshoeshoe later allied himself with the British Cape Colony government in a bid to protect the Basotho from the Dutch Voortrekkers who started encroaching on their land. Much fighting followed. In 1868 Basotholand became a protectorate of the British Empire. It gained independence within the British Commonwealth on 4 Oct 1966.
Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy, which means not the king but the parliament determines politicis. The Kingdom of Lesotho was formed through the pursuit of peace, and this peaceful nature still exists in the Basotho. Half of Lesotho’s population survives on less than $1.25 a day. Though the average income is very low, Lesotho holds one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. The government tries to improve education and schooling, to reduce child labour. Lesotho is a beautiful country with stunning landscapes. Thats why the government is promoting tourism, hotels and ski resorts are built, which will provide for better paid jobs.