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Interesting Facts About Africa: Vol 3

Updated on November 16, 2015

These next group of African countries are very deep rooted because of not only the role they played in Africa's growth and history but also in the world's historical and archaeological findings.

Here are some interesting facts about some of these African countries that will shock you;

Sphinx in Egypt is the largest monolith statue in the world
Sphinx in Egypt is the largest monolith statue in the world
Map of Egypt
Map of Egypt

Egypt

  • Egypt is the most populated country in the Middle East and with 82,079,663 people making it the 15th most populated country in the world. Egypt has the world’s largest Arab population too and is the 30th largest country in the world by area at 386,560 sq mi which is slightly three times larger than New Mexico.
  • At least since her independence from the Britain in 1922, no Egyptian President has left office without being forced out or dying, so far until 2015. Anwar el-Sadat made Egypt the first Arab nation to achieve peace with Israel in 1979 for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize, consequently Egypt was suspended from the Arab League and Sadat was later assassinated. President Hosni Mubarak assumed power by national referendum but was ousted and arrested amidst wide protest which led to the Arab spring.
  • Christianity was the main religion in Egypt between the fourth and sixth centuries before the Arabs conquered making it an Islamic state in A.D 642, so scholars believe the Egyptian symbol called the ankh is the origin of the much later Christian cross. It also looks like a key—for ancient Egyptians, the key to eternal life. Ancient Egyptians worshipped over 1400 different gods and goddesses.
  • Sphinx is the largest monolith statue in the world but it was speculated that although Napoleon’s troops shot off the nose of the Sphinx at Giza, sketches of the Sphinx from 1737 show it without a nose, more than 60 years before Napoleon reached Egypt. The only person known to have damaged it was an Islamic cleric, Sa’im al-dahr, who was hanged in 1378 for vandalism.
  • In the land of the Pharaohs of Egypt, beer was the national currency and so Egyptian pyramid workers were paid with Beer: 1 gallon (4L) per day.

National Flag of Egypt
National Flag of Egypt
Egyptian Mummies
Egyptian Mummies
  • Near Tuna el-Gebel on the edge of Egypt’s Western Desert, scientists have unearthed more than four million mummies of a stork-like bird called an ibis. “The Beautiful House” is the name of the house or tent where mummification took place in ancient Egypt. Mummies are said to be so powerful that some people blamed the sinking of the Titanic on a mummified Egyptian priestess the doomed ship was transporting. Ancient Egyptians mummified not only people but animals as well as Archeologists discovered a 15-foot- (4.5-m-) long mummified crocodile.
  • The River Nile in Egypt is the longest in the world running 4,135 miles (6,670 km) through nine different countries. Ancient Egyptians would measure the depth of the Nile using a “nilometer.” The English word “Nile” is derived from the Semitic nahal, meaning “river.” Ancient Egyptians called the river iteru, meaning “Great River”.
  • In ancient Egypt, killing a cat, even by accident, incurred the death penalty and so ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrows to mourn the death of their cats
  • There are still unexplored passageways in the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt
  • The first pharaoh of Egypt is considered to be King Menes, who united the Upper and Lower Kingdoms in 3150 B.C. He named the capital of the united lands Memphis, which means “Balance of Two Lands.” Legend says he ruled for 60 years until he was killed by a hippopotamus and so they were considered bad omens and associated with the evil god Seth.
  • It was discovered that Ancient Egypt King Tutankhamen who reigned from 1347-1324 B.C died at the age of 18. All the known tombs of Egyptian kings were all raided by robbers with one exception, the tomb of Tutankhamen. It was discovered in 1922 and was full of priceless materials and beautiful workmanship.
  • The current Royal Library at Alexandria has a copy of all the web pages on every website on the internet since it started in 1996. 2200 years ago, Eratosthenes (the great Greek mathematician, geographer and astronomer who became the chief librarian at the Royal Library of Alexandria) estimated the earth’s circumference using math, without ever leaving Egypt. He was remarkably accurate as a result the great Christopher Columbus later studied him and his works.

Map of Equatorial Guinea
Map of Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

  • Equatorial Guinea which use to be a Spanish colony was formerly known as Spanish Guinea is located in the west-central Africa and has a total area of 10,830 sq mi (28,050 sq Km slightly smaller than the state of Maryland in USA ) making it one of the smallest countries in Africa.
  • The country has two major cultural and ethnic traditions which include the Fang, on the mainland and the minority tribe of Bubi on the Island of Bioko.
  • The current President, Teodoro Obiang has been in power for over 35 years since he overthrew and executed another dictator Macias Nguema in a bloody coup d’etat on 3 August 1979.

Flag of Equatorial Guinea
Flag of Equatorial Guinea
  • Oil was first discovered in the country in 1995 and with oil production raised to 360,000 bpd from 220,000 bpd two years ago, the country became the third largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Equatorial Guinea became the first non-Francophone African country of the franc zone to accept and adopt the CFA as its currency in January 1985 but the national currency the ekwele was previously linked to the Spanish peseta.
  • Equatorial Guinea has the highest GNI (Gross National Income) per capita of any other Sub-Saharan country according to World Bank and it is 83 times larger than the GNI per capita of Burundi, the poorest country in Africa.

Map of Eritrea showing neighbouring countries
Map of Eritrea showing neighbouring countries
Eritrean woman preparing for coffee ceremony
Eritrean woman preparing for coffee ceremony

Eritrea

  • Eritrea after Egypt has the second highest archeological sites and historical discoveries in Africa, simply because the number of archeological sites in the country which was 45,000 previously has now increased to about 80,000.
  • National service in the military exist in Eritrea since 1995 where conscripts, male and female, must serve for 18 months, which includes 6 months of military training and 12 months doing national reconstruction.
  • Coffee ceremony is one of the most recognizable parts of Eritrean culture where it is always served in three rounds in most families; first brew called Tigirinya, second brew called kalaay and the third brew called bereka.
  • The Hausas and Bargo from Nigeria collectively called the Tokharir are the two major foreign ethnic groups who live in Eritrea. They arrived having made the pilgrimage to Mecca many centuries ago but did not have the means to get themselves home, so they stopped in Eritrea and eastern Sudan and have remained there ever since. They can be presently found in the western lowlands around Tesseni and in some areas around Keren.

Eritrean National Flag
Eritrean National Flag
  • The Dahlak (meaning “Gates of Hell”) Islanders found off the coast of Eritrea were actually the first Muslim converts in the Horn of Africa (a peninsula in Northeast Africa that covers approximately 2,000,000 Km2 (770,000 sq mi) and is inhabited by roughly 115 million people which consists of Ethiopia: 96.6 million, Somalia: 10.4 million, Eritrea: 6.4 million, and Djibouti: 0.81 million) based on direct archaeological evidence which was also speculated by BBC to be the oldest settled civilization and/or agricultural community.
  • Human ancestry is suggested to have migrated out of Africa, north along Eritrea's Red Sea coast according to a discovery made by Bob Walter about the oldest evidence of stone tools near a marine environment which dated back as at 125,000 years old.
  • In Afar a community in Eritrea, a man’s strength and bravery which translates into prestige comes traditionally from killing fellow man in fact a beautiful Afar native women will usually not consider courtship with a man who has never killed before. Thus, a man must wear an iron bracelet indicating he has killed atleast ten men before being attracted to the most beautiful ladies in town.

Do you believe that African countries should have been the front-runners of development rather than her Western counterparts?

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Map of Ethiopia showing neighbouring countries
Map of Ethiopia showing neighbouring countries
National Flag of Ethiopia
National Flag of Ethiopia

Ethiopia

  • Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous in African continent. At 1,126,829 sq Km (435,071 sq mi), Ethiopia is the world’s 27th largest country approximately as big as France and Spain combined.
  • Ethiopia, one of the oldest nations in the world founded in 989 B.C, technically still remains only country in Africa that was never formally colonized but it had to defeat the Italians twice with help of some allies to remain independent, making them the first African country to defeat a European power military.
  • Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia was crowned Emperor on 2 November 1930 with the titles "King of Kings", "Lord of Lords", "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah", "Elect of God." He took Haile Selassie I as his regnal name which translates to "Power of the Trinity". He was worshipped by Rastafarians as a divine being whose name comes from Haile Selassie's birth name, Ras Tafari, which means "Prince Tafari". But his reign as the last Emperor of Ethiopia came to an end in 1974, when a Soviet-backed Marxist–Leninist military junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam deposed him.
  • Ethiopia ranks as the 5th poorest country in the world. Almost two-thirds of the Ethiopian population lives on less than US$1 a day, so poor that raw meat is considered a delicacy.

Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia
Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia
Standing tall at  75 feet (23 m) high, the Obelist Aksum claims to be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and also the first known sky-scrapper in the world.
Standing tall at 75 feet (23 m) high, the Obelist Aksum claims to be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and also the first known sky-scrapper in the world.
  • Ethiopia is home to over 70% of Africa’s mountain. Perhaps due to the high altitude in the country, Ethiopians are famous for being great long distance runners. Abebe Bikila became the first black African to win the gold medal in the Olympic Marathon in 1960 running the entire race barefooted. He won the race again in Tokyo four years later and became the first person to win the race twice, setting a world record.
  • The famous Aksum, in Ethiopia, claims to be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the 10 commandments God gave to Moses, as well as a piece of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified and the standing obelisk, which is 75 feet (23 m) high. With windows and doors, it is said to be the world’s first skyscraper. But only one man, the guardian, is actually allowed to see the ark, so whether or not the Ark of the Covenant is actually there remains a mystery.
  • Ethiopia is the only country that follows the Julian calendar consisting of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 or 6 days. It is roughly 7 and half years behind the Gregorian calendar and thus the Ethiopian fiscal year begins on 8 July and the Ethiopian New Year begins on 11 September (12 September in leap years). Ethiopians count time differently on the opposite side of the clock, 6 o’clock it is said to be 12 o’clock – the start of the day in Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own alphabet called the 'abugida’ and is considered to be the origin of mankind as the oldest fossil skeleton of a human called Lucy, believed to have existed over 3 million years ago, was discovered in 1974 at the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopia’s gelada baboon is not a baboon but is, in fact, a monkey that is the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates. It is also popularly known as the “Bleeding Heart” baboon which was from the patch of skin on the chest of the female that becomes bright red when it is most fertile.


Map of Gabon
Map of Gabon
National Flag of Gabon
National Flag of Gabon

Gabon

  • Gabon is a country in the west coast of Central Africa located on the equator and with an estimated population of 1.5 million people.
  • Since she got her independence from France in 1960, Gabon has had only three presidents; Leon M’ba, Omar Bongo (who died in June 2009 of cardiac arrest at a hospital in Barcelona, Spain) and his son Ali Bongo Ondimba (who is the president till date).
  • Gabon’s medical infrastructure which are majorly public are considered the best in West with 28 hospitals, 87 medical centers, and 312 infirmaries and dispensaries as at 1985, and central Africa as approximately 90% of the population had access to health care services.
  • Speculations recently surfaced from French sources that the current President since 2009, Ali Bongo Ondimba who is adopted son of the late President Omar Bongo that ruled for 41 years, is indeed from Igbo tribe of Nigeria. The French source said that infact he was adopted during the Biafra Civil war in the late 1960s.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon
  • The wife of Late president Omar Bongo, Patience Dabany, born Marie Joséphine Kama, went fully into music after their 1986 divorce following 30 years of marriage, moving to the US to pursue her skills in music. Today her music is one of the country’s best known musicians, she draws huge crowds whenever she performs, and has at least 10 albums to her name, including collaborations with the likes of the late James Brown and Quincy Jones.
  • Gabon is the third country in Africa with the highest per capita nominal incomes at about $13,000, theoretically makes it a middle income country.
  • Africa’s largest international cycling race is situated in Gabon called the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo which was named after Omar Bongo’s daughter while race’s patron is Bernard Hinault, a five time Tour de France winner.

Map of Gambia
Map of Gambia
Gambia President, Yahya Jammeh
Gambia President, Yahya Jammeh

Gambia

  • Gambia current president’s name is His Excellency Alhaji Sheikh Professor Dr Yahaya Abdul Aziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh, as he chose to be called. He is a US-trained former army officer who took power from the then president Dawda Kairaba Jawara in a bloodless coup in 1994.
  • In 1964, the prime minister of The Gambia said that one of the reasons they like to have ‘The’ in their name is to avoid confusion with Zambia.
  • Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa and is slightly smaller than Yorkshire.
  • In 2007, Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh announced that he had found a cure for Aids made from boiled herbs. He says 68 patients have been cured. Doctors say patients have to stop anti-retroviral treatments to take the "cure", which can be deadly.
  • People cast their votes in elections in The Gambia by dropping stones in holes.

Gambia Wassu Stone Circles is the largest concentration of stone circles seen anywhere in the world according to UN ESCO
Gambia Wassu Stone Circles is the largest concentration of stone circles seen anywhere in the world according to UN ESCO
National Flag of Gambia
National Flag of Gambia
  • The Gambian national sport is a form of wrestling known as ‘Borreh’, but Football is also popular and the national football team of The Gambia is nicknamed "The Scorpions".
  • Though 50,000 British tourists visit the Gambia each year, the country has been much-criticized by the UK and other countries for its human rights abuses. A year ago, the Gambia sparked a diplomatic crisis when it suddenly decided to execute all its death-row prisoners by firing squad within one month, after 27 years without any executions at all. Nine prisoners including one woman and two Senegalese nationals – were executed, provoking the wrath of neighbouring Senegal and widespread condemnation abroad.
  • The Gambia is a major destination for female sex tourism. Predominantly middle-aged white women from Europe and America visit the Gambia's beach resorts looking for a "holiday romance", in which local young men commonly known as "Bumsters" – exchange sex for money, gifts or visas.
  • In 2013, Gambian dictator President of two decades, Yahya Jammeh announced it was leaving the Commonwealth after 48 years. No reason was given for the decision, but the government's statement , which was read on state TV referred to the institution as "neocolonial".

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