All About Africa
The continent of Africa is the second largest on the Earth with a land area of about 12 million square miles, and the second most populous with nearly 1.1 billion people, which is about 15% of the world's population. There are 54 countries that make up this diverse continent.
Africa is located mostly in the Eastern and Northern hemispheres surrounded by Europe to the north, the merging of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to the south called the Horn of Africa, and across the Atlantic Ocean to the west is North and South America. On its northeast border rests Saudi Arabia and the rest of Asia.
On the continent of Africa are several bodies of water including the longest river in the world, the 4,258-mile long Nile River. The river begins in the country of Ethiopia and its mouth is in Egypt. In addition to the Nile is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Victoria, second only to Lake Superior in North America. Other major rivers in Africa include the Congo, Niger, and Zambezi, plus Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa.
The terrain of Africa includes large mountains, tropical rainforests, grassy savannas and three large deserts-the Sahara, Kalahari, and Namib. The Sahara is the largest in the world, called the Sea of Sand, it is nearly the size of the United States. Most of Africa's climate is tropical and desert.
Africa includes mountainous regions as well such as the extensive Great Rift Valley, running south to north about 3,700 miles along the east coast from Mozambique to beyond Egypt into Israel. The tallest mountain in Africa is Mount Kilimanjaro, its peak always covered in snow, and the lowest elevation is the Dead Sea, below sea level.
Rainforests are limited with the Congo rainforest on the western coast being home to gorillas, chimpanzees, and elephants. There is also a population of forest dwellers, humans, called pygmies, estimated between 250,000 to 600,000 inhabitants, with adult men's average height of about 4 feet, 11 inches. Their origins date back over 60,000 years. The savannas of Africa are north and south of the rainforests and are areas of tall grasses, scattered trees, and bushes, and home to lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras, and elephants.
Of the 54 countries on Africa, the largest is Algeria, covering more than half the landmass of the continent; and its smallest is Seychelles, a nation of islands located in the Indian Ocean east of the mainland. The most populated country is Nigeria with over 185 million people. The fourth largest island in the world is Madagascar, found south of Seychelles, which is called the 'Red Island' due to the red color of its soil. It has a population of about 22 million people.
Finally, many people throughout the world visit Africa to experience Victoria Falls in the country of Zambia and Zimbabwe, which flows at double the rate of Niagara Falls. The Pyramids of Giza near Cairo, Egypt are famous landmarks, built around 2650 BC from 2.5 million blocks of limestone. Many people have experienced a close encounter with a mountain gorilla or golden monkey found in the Rwandan rainforest in Volcanoes National Park.
Africa has been known as the 'cradle of mankind' because it is the place where the first human beings evolved 5 to 10 million years ago. The fossils found in Africa indicate that modern humans spread from Africa to the rest of the world.
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