Anticipating Africa

OAT, like Road Scholar, provides an excellent package of preparatory materials.  These include everything you need to know about visa requirements,  immunizations, climate, what to pack, how much money to bring, plus a reading list for people like me.

I haven’t read ALL of the books on the list, but I have made my way through almost half.  Many were available from my local library, others I ordered from Amazon.   Here’s a visual of the ones that haven’t been returned to the library yet.  (Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m a bit obsessive, but I figure if I am lucky enough to be able to spend time in another country, I should at least expend the effort to learn about it before I go.)


Much too much for one post, so I’ll start with the book that is a bit dense, but is crammed with fascinating information–much of it news to me.

Africa, A Biography of the Continent by John Reader
In its 800 pages, this weighty tome covers a little bit of just about everything: genetics, linguistics, anthropology, history, archaeology, geology, geography, economics, agriculture–from the beginning of time right up to the 1990’s.  And if THAT isn’t enough, you can delve into footnotes and bibliography for more on the various subjects.   The best part?  Each of its 55 chapters starts with a short summary of what will follow, which makes it easy to decide whether or not you want to read further.

Here are just a few of the interesting tidbits I picked up from skimming through:

  • I knew Africa is big, but didn’t know HOW big.  China, the USA, India, Europe, Argentina and New Zealand could all fit into its 18.9 million square miles!  Hard to believe, but take a look.


Pretty cool, huh?  Here’s another one–showing Pangaea before the continents drifted.


Although I knew about plate tectonics from my days of hanging out with geology professors while selling them college textbooks,   I couldn’t tell you the difference between Pangaea and Gondwana.  But now I can.   And I had never heard of Laurasia, from which North America was eventually formed.

But wait, there’s more…

  • The earliest evidence of life on earth was found in Africa.  Fossilized microscopic organisms from 3.6 billion years ago were discovered in the Barberton Mountain region of South Africa.
  • Geneticists, analyzing DNA mutations, have concluded that our entire modern population descended from a relatively small group of people who left Africa about 100,000 years ago (roughly 10,000 generations ).
  • The DNA  of chimpanzees and humans is 99% identical.  Here’s a little visual courtesy of the Auckland Zoo.  What a difference 1% can make!genetics


  • Linguists have shown that the most ancient languages originated in Africa.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  For anyone anticipating a trip to Africa, this book is definitely worth a trip to your local library.   Remember, you don’t have to read it ALL–just the chapters that interest you.  And there is something for just about everyone!



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I am intensely curious, with a spirit of adventure that is tempered by my very strong aversion to anything with potential to cause pain. I love travel, photography, reading, gardening, yoga, music and propelling myself through space (biking, dancing, walking, dancing while walking). I've never considered a lack of proficiency in any of the previous activities to be a hindrance, counting on abundant enthusiasm to make up for my shortcomings.

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