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“The first thing that always surprises people is that you can go skiing in Lesotho. The whole thing was begun by a South African of Austrian birth and was completed by a gentleman from Linz. There are now two ski slopes in Lesotho, run by the Lesotho Ski Program, and this will probably be further expanded in the future.

Lesotho has the highest levels of both literacy and English language proficiency, and English is a compulsory subject in most primary and secondary schools. In addition, it already has two universities. Lesotho has a relatively high proportion of women in both the diplomatic service and in parliament and government since Lesotho society is traditionally matriarchal. The constitution is modeled on the British system, even including a constitutional monarchy.

Practicals

Transport

In Lesotho, you need good driving skills on the mountain roads. A maximum concentration, driving skill is needed. The road meanders on dangerous curves.  Many of the roads deep in the mountains are virtually one lane in width at points.

Shopping


Background

Lesotho national flag - in the middle a traditional hut

Destination in brief

Lesotho in brief
 
Lesotho is a barely known, tiny country in southern Africa. This mountain kingdom is a landlocked enclave entirely encircled by the eastern part of the South African Republic.
 
Lesotho was a British colony (called Basutoland) and gained independence in 1966.  
 
Size: 30,355 km² (11,720 mi²) – The entire territory lies over 1,000 meters (3280 ft) high, so the climate is outright pleasant, not tropical - Lesotho is the highest country in the world and is often nicknamed the “Kingdom in the Sky”!
 
May-September is winter in Lesotho. Minus 7°C (-19°F), in higher areas even minus 18°C (-0.4°F) temperatures are not unusual (in Africa!)
 
Johannesburg, in South Africa, is a 55-minute flight away from Maseru.
 
Capital city: Maseru
 
Population: 2.2 million (2020) – Lesotho is a mono-ethnic state - its people are called the Basotho. - 75% live in rural areas
 
The traditional clothing of the Basotho people is a blanket. This is a beautiful patterned woolen garment that all locals wear proudly.
 
Many locals have at least one family member working in South Africa, mostly on farms or in the mines. These family members send remittances (money) back home to support the family in Lesotho.
 
Lesotho has the highest adult literacy rate of any country in Africa, with a literacy rate of 85% for women and 67% for men. It must be noted that Lesotho is very likely the only African country where female literacy rate supersedes male literacy rate, and by quite a wide margin too.
 
Languages: English is the language of the official administration and business life, while the other official language, Sesotho (or Sotho) is the language used in everyday life. Zulu and Xhosa are widely spoken as well.
 
The name of the country comes from the Sesotho language and means: the place of the people who speak Sesotho.
 
With the aid of missionaries, Sesotho was translated into written form long before the colonial era.
 
Religions: Mostly Christian (48% Protestant, 40% Catholic)
 
 
Political & economic situation (April 2020): Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy – the king has a mostly ceremonial role. The Prime Minister has real executive power.
 
The small country is in no way free from political turbulences, but these somehow remain mostly within the framework of democracy.
 
Poverty and unemployment rates are high, violent crime is widespread, and there are many reports of rape and abuse against women.
 
The economy in Lesotho is dominantly driven by manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism.
 
A diamond mine in Lesotho, called the Letšeng mine is famous for its large, top-quality diamonds. These diamonds are allegedly the most valuable diamonds in the world.

Currency: Lesotho loti (LSL)
 
Average net monthly salary: 270 USD (2020)
 
More than 50% of the population is very poor, with many still living in thatched-roof huts made from bricks and mud. These huts are called rondavels. People in urban areas, however, live in reasonably modern houses and multi-story buildings.
 
Most common surname: Mohapi
 
Lesotho is a left-driving country.
 
Safety (May 2020):
Lesotho is a relatively safe tourist destination by African standards.
 
Lesotho has the second-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world (number one is nearby Swaziland) – 25% of the population over 15 years of age is infected with HIV.
 
When to visit? April September-October
 
Top tourist attractions:
 
Ukhahlamba/Drakensberg NP (shared with South Arica), Sehlabethebe NP, Malealea, Maletsunyane Waterfall (the highest in Southern Africa), Sani Pass, Afriski (for skiing in Africa!), Katse Dam
Lesotho is a veritable heaven for bird-watchers and ornithologists.


Geography

Lesotho is the country with the highest lowest point on earth, which is 1400m (4593 ft). No other country on earth is entirely above 1000m (3280 ft).

Lesotho - near Katse village - a.p. photo

Climate

In winter, snow may cover the entire country. The higher areas get snow every winter, and there is even a ski resort in Lesotho.

The optimal timing of a visit could be during winter - May to August; however, the nights are freezing and coupled with snowfall at times. Summers are scorching, with high temperatures, maybe due to global warming.

Nowadays

Many residents of Lesotho work in South Africa, often in mining, and send money back home to their families.

People

South Africans love gloating about their wealth. In Lesotho, this is quite offensive.

Lesotho - guys - Alexander S. photo

Tourist etiquette


1.    The Sotho people like to touch one another when speaking, as a gesture of intimacy, but only when men speak to men or women to women. It is more common to see two men walking hand in hand in the street than a man with his wife or girlfriend. Homosexuality, however, is forbidden, and the Sotho claim that among them it does not exist. Thus, two men hugging or holding hands is not considered a romantic gesture.

2.    When counting on their fingers, they start at the little finger and move towards the thumb. The number six is indicated by showing five fingers of one hand and the little finger of the other.

3.    Women are not permitted to enter public bars, since people would call any woman who did a prostitute – this applies also to foreign women. Alcohol is permitted from the age of 18, and there are no age restrictions on smoking.

4.    Women should not wear trousers, or if they do, they should cover their legs with a skirt over the top.

Gastronomy

Lesotho's national cuisine is not particularly exotic, similarly to the cuisine of many other African countries. Lesotho's cuisine is a mix of European and Asian culinary traditions.
The local population consumes a lot of vegetables. The most popular vegetables in the Kingdom are squash, potatoes, and tomatoes.

The meat of exotic animals (elephants and crocodiles) is served in local restaurants as a delicacy.
Curry is the main spice for fish and meat dishes. Although Lesotho is a landlocked country, fish and seafood are trendy: lobsters, shrimps, lobsters, and crayfish.

Lesotho grows amazingly delicious grapes. These berries are present in all restaurant menus, fresh or dried.

Attractions

Maseru

Lesotho - Maseru - Basotho Hat, landmark of Maseru - c.p. photo

Lesotho - Maseru - a roundabout at the The Our Lady of Victories Cathedral - a.p. photo

Maletsunyane falls

Lesotho - Maletsunyane Falls - v.m. photo

The 200 million years  Drakensberg Mountains is a UNESCO world natural heritage site, shared with South Africa.

Lesotho - Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains - e.p. photo

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