We’ve all heard of the Dead Sea, so salty that people naturally float in it. But the Gaet’ale Pond in Ethiopia is saltier, and the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica is so salty that it doesn’t freeze, even at -50°C.
Around five million years ago, the Strait of Gibraltar closed and the Mediterranean dried up. When it reopened, the sea refilled in less than two years.
There are a lot of pseudo-Hollywoods making films: Bollywood, Dhallywood, Mollywood, and Wellywood. My favourites are the hyper-violent action films of Uganda’s Wakaliwood.
In 1959, a block of glacier ice was carried – without refrigeration – from the Arctic Circle, through Europe, across the Sahara, and all the way to the Equator. It was perhaps the greatest publicity stunt in history.
It’s no surprise that one of the ways we’ll fight climate change is to plant a lot of trees. Across the entirety of northern Africa, millions of trees are being planted to help, and also to hold back the spread of the Sahara.
The Akan of Ghana name their children after days of the week, birth order, and sometimes notable facts about their birth. Kofi Atta Annan, for example, was a twin born on a Friday. But nobody wants to be called Obím̀pέ.
Cuckoos are not the only animal to have their young raised by other species. Bees, wasps, and fish also exhibit the same parasitic behaviour.
In France, China, and Sudan you can marry a ghost.
For a period of about four thousand years, during the Neolithic Subpluvial, the Sahara was green. Rivers, lakes, trees, savanna, and pre-historic societies flourished in this wet period.
Most people know that smallpox was the first disease that we have completely eradicated in the wild. But what was the second, and what does it have to do with Egyptian plagues, measles, and cattle?
Around 1311 CE, the mansa (sultan) of the Mali Empire sent hundreds of ships to find the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. They were lost at sea, so on the next expedition he sailed into the Atlantic himself. He was never seen again.
Searching for oil in the 1950s, prospectors discovered huge supplies of ancient water under the Sahara. The Great Man-Made River (an enormous network of underground pipes) now brings that water to the major cities of Libya.
For most Westerners, stone circles begin and end with Stonehenge. But there are examples around the world, in Australia, Asia, and Africa too. In Senegal and The Gambia, there are around two thousand of these megalithic monuments.
In 1966, the sixth Prime Minister of South Africa was stabbed to death inside the House of Assembly.