The Republic of South Africa lies at the southern tip of Africa. In the 90's ended Apartheid. It is still a country with huge contrasts. Currently South Africa is a presidential Republic. The current constitution dates from 1996. South Africa, including the Prince Edward Islands, is 1,219,912 km2, it is thus 30 times larger than the Netherlands. Furthermore, the country has a coastline of about 2800 km of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. South Africa hase 3 capitals: Pretoria (administrative power), Cape Town (legislative power) and Bloemfontein (judicial). There is, in comparison a slight time differencewith the Netherlands: UTC +2. The country code is +27. The electricity is 220-240 volts. The plug is with three poles.
The climate is semi-desert and subtropical on the coast. January is the warmest month and July the coldest. There are relatively few lakes and rivers. The main river is the Orange River, which rises in the Drakensberg. The highest part of South Africa are the Lesotho Highlands. The highest peaks rise above the 3400 meters. The landscape of South Africa is very diverse and can be divided into 21 natural regions. It uses often for good reason the tagline "The whole world in one country". The country has more than 20,000 different species of plants, there is a particularly high biodiversity. South Africa is rich in fauna, including the Big Five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. Some animals you can't find anywhere else in the world, such as the Hottentot hare.
According to the latest population statistics in 2001 South Africa had 44,819,778 inhabitants. The population is shrinking at the moment. South Africa is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country. There are many different languages, 11 of which are official: Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, English, Tswana, South Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda and Southern Ndebele. If Dutch is spoken slowly most people who speak Afrikaans can understand. According to the latest data, 79.7% of the population is Christian, Muslim 1.5%, 1.3% Hindu, the rest had no faith, or a vague belief such as nature religions.
The cuisine of South Africa is characterized by the large number of influences from African, European and Asian cultures. Typical South African are biltong, melktert, Rooibos tea and various stews. South Africa is also an important wine producing country.
The Rand is the currency of South Africa. The name is derived from the vein of gold in Witwatersrand. One Rand is 100 cents. There are banknotes from 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Rand. The price level in South Africa is generally lower than in the Netherlands, especially the petrol is very cheap.
In traffic there are some differences with the Netherlands and Belgium. The main difference of course is that in South Africa they drive at the left site. The stop sign is strictly applied in South Africa. The only priority rule is: "first come, first served". Along the highways there are people walking and cycling along the road, at the part which we call the emergency lane. Officially it is forbidden, but it is very common. Especially in the evening you see the people do not have lights on their bicyclest, and large areas have no street lighting. For Dutch people gasoline is cheap, about € 0.60 per liter. After mowing the roadsides, the remaining parts are often fired. This is perfectly normal, especially in the South African winter.
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