Abuja’s geography is defined by Aso Rock, a 400-metre (1,300 ft) monolith left by water erosion. The Presidential Complex, National Assembly, Supreme Court and much of the city extend to the south of the rock. Zuma Rock, a 792-metre (2,598 ft) monolith, lies just north of the city on the road to Kaduna State. At the 2006 census, the city of Abuja had a population of 776,298, making it one of the ten most populous cities in Nigeria. According to the United Nations, Abuja grew at the rate of 139.7% between 2000 and 2010, making it the fastest growing city in the world.
As of 2015, the city is still experiencing an annual growth of at least 35%, still retaining its position as the fastest-growing city on the African continent and one of the fastest-growing in the world.
Africa is arguably the world’s most culturally diverse continent. Nearly all the nationalities and cultures of the world seem to be represented there. The European colonial powers carved the continent up to claim territories for their colonial empires. The European influence dates back to 1652 when the Dutch East India Company founded Cape Town as an outpost only a few years after the Dutch West India Company founded what would become New York City. Cape Town was the first permanent European settlement in Africa. They all left their historical and cultural legacies, their languages, architecture and infrastructure, which are all part of the rich cultural tapestry of Africa today.
In the 1960s, a wave of African nationalism spread across the continent as one after another of the colonies sought and achieved independence. Many of the political struggles were severe and the battle for Africa’s rich resources led in some cases to systematic brutality, which has also left its mark on Africa. In the 1990s, South Africa, where the colonization all began, finally threw off its oppressive racist government and became a democratic country where all people have the right to vote. It led to an economic and cultural renaissance for the country, which has since moved into the forefront of African tourism.
In the north, Africa adjoins with Europe and the Middle East, both geographically and culturally. At the Strait of Gibraltar, Europe and Africa are separated by only 7.7 nautical miles of sea. Morocco and Spain practically bleed into each other with their blends of Moorish, Arab, Spanish, French and Roman influences. The Arab states of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt form the northern rim of Africa. Egypt is one of the most popular and unique tourist destinations in the world. Morocco is not far behind it. To the south is the great Sahara Desert, and below that the great variety of sub-Saharan Africa.
The continent has tremendous geographical diversity, from desert to jungle, forest, savannahs, mountains, beaches and winelands. And it has the most spectacular wildlife on earth, with elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, gorillas, rhinos, hippos, antelopes, buffalo, chimps and baboons.
While most American tourists don’t even think of Egypt and Morocco in the African context, African tourism has historically meant going on safari to most people. The safari business began with Kenya, then gradually spread, so that today Americans go on safari in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa, and interest is spreading even farther.
But today, Americans are discovering Africa beyond the safari and seeing that Africa is rich in the many of the same kinds of attractions as elsewhere in the world. The highly developed civilizations offer great cultural and historical richness to discover, as well as modern cuisine and nightlife. In the 21st century, Africa is definitely on the ascendance.