Western Sahara (S3.10)

S03E10 – Western Sahara Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Western Sahara, a disputed territory in North-West Africa. Home to roughly 550,000 people and bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the east, Mauritania to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara is partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied, and is often called ‘Africa’s last colony.’

Map of Western Sahara's position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

Map of Western Sahara’s position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

First colonised by Spain in 1885, the territory’s sovereignty has been fiercely disputed for decades, particularly since 1975, when Spain officially relinquished its claim over the region. Today it is alternately known as Morocco’s Southern Provinces or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, however, we’ll be referring to the region as Western Sahara throughout most of this episode. At roughly 260,000 square kilometers or 100,000 square miles, Western Sahara is about the size of the US state of Colorado or just slightly larger than the UK. The territory consists mostly of uninhabitable desert, and nearly 40% of its inhabitants live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, while up to 100,000 people from the region are currently living in refugee camps in neighbouring Algeria.

This episode, the Finale of Season 3, is our first Patreon-nominated and voted-on episode. Thanks to Erik Tastepe, in particular, for suggesting this interesting location and to all of you who voted. Join us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to have a say in the direction of future seasons or get access to various awards.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


In this episode, we carried out an extensive interview with Nick Brooks (@WSaharaProject), a climate scientist, who has worked over many years in Western Sahara, co-directing a project with archaeologist Jo Clarke. This “Western Sahara Project” has led to a recently-published book on the topic (see here). Nick also has a very interesting blog about his time spent there, the politics of the situation and related topics called “Sand and Dust”. Beautiful photo galleries of all the archaeological discoveries from the research project in the desert have been shared on Flickr.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

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Lesotho (S3.08)

S03E08 Lesotho Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about the Kingdom of Lesotho, previously the British Crown Colony of Basutoland. This small African country is entirely surrounded by South Africa, making it one of only three nations to be contained entirely within another country’s borders. Lesotho is also one of the highest countries in the world, standing an average of 1500 metres above sea level, making it the fifth highest nation in the world by average elevation. Lesotho has a population of around 2 million, and its capital and largest city is Maseru.

 

 

At around 30,000 square kilometres, the country is roughly the size of Belgium or the US state of Hawaii. Its combination of high altitude and a relatively cool climate results in it being free of tropical diseases. Rainfall is highly variable, farming is difficult and the country has few natural resources. Sesotho is the national language, but English is the language of business, government and education. 

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)

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Above is the location of Lesotho, contained entirely within South Africa.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

King_Moshoeshoe_of_the_Basotho_with_his_ministers

Some nice  music (and characteristic dancing, in some cases) we found:

Thanks to Seán Lyons for his interview about his time working in Lesotho with Irish NGO Action Lesotho. A massive thanks too to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate the support and input!

Seychelles (S2.03)

S02E03: Seychelles Audio

Welcome to our third episode in season 2 of 80 Days: an exploration podcast. Today we will be looking at the little island paradise of the Seychelles, a country made up of an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. This former British colony has a population of just over 90,000, the smallest of any independent African state, and lies 1,500 kilometres (or 932 miles) off East Africa.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne@anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Like neighbouring Madagascar, the islands are best known for their unique geology and diverse wildlife populations. White sand beaches and clear blue oceans abound here, in what was once a haven for pirates marauding throughout the Indian Ocean. A tropical rainforest climate ensures that the islands are hot and humid year-round. Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is the smallest capital in the entire world, with a population of around 27,000 and the country today is one of the most prosperous in all of Africa.

900px-Flag_of_Seychelles.svgLocation_Seychelles_AU_Africa.svg

Table of Contents:
[01:10] Intro – sounds pretty nice tbh
[02:07] Early history – coco de mer the rudest fruit
[06:28] Discovery – Seychelles can’t get no respect
[14:00] Pierre Poivre & other French colonial hijinks

[19:54] As usual the British turn up and Seychelles surrenders many times
[26:13] Welcome to the Empire Seychelles
[29:24] Seychelles – exotic prison colony with balls, baths and Birch
[36:30] Smut(s) and WW2’s loyal aliens
[40:30] Independence – Brits start to feel bad
[45:44] Commie Coup
[53:20] Mad Mike Hoare and his bad couping
[1:00:37] Democracy, climate change and geology

[1:04:22] Food – sharks and tiny persons
[1:07:13] Economy – tourism & N. Korean… friendship
[1:37:07] Modern day

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Hindu temple (credit: Murat Dagdeler)Key Facts

  • Smallest population of any independent African state (92k) mostly on Mahé
  • 1500 km east of African mainland
  • 115 islands in archipelago spread over 1m sq km
  • Unique Geology
  • Interesting flag, looks like a combination of Hungary and Romania (/r/vexillology) – third flag since independence, adopted after end of single-party state
  • Low temp of 24 degrees, highs in the 30s…
  • Mix of granite islands (only examples and oldest islands in the World) and coral islands (very new)
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Local fishmarket (credit: Murat Dagdeler)

Music:

And now you can check out some of the main reference links for the podcast. It’s a red letter day for you and no mistake.

And here’s the coco de mer that got us all so… excited. Think you can see why.

Thanks to Rob Curran & Krista Phillips for their generous Kickstarter support. You guys are heroes.

And a massive thank you, as always to our sponsor Hairy Baby, makers of the funniest Irish-themed clothing. Remember to get a 10% discount off anything you buy on their website (www.hairybaby.com) by using our special promo code, read out during the episode. We recommend the 80 Days official tee.

Liberia (S1.06)

Audio: S1E06 Liberia

This week in 80 Days, we looked at Liberia, a small country on the west coast of Africa. Founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic and takes its name from the the Latin phrase meaning “Land of the Free.” Unfortunately, the country is best known for a long and bloody civil war that look place in the 1990s and 2000s, and more recently for the Ebola epidemic of 2014. The lush, rainforested country is just 700 kilometres or 430 miles north of the equator, and is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) to its east. Today, the country is home to around 4.5 million inhabitants, although most are native Africans rather than the descendants of freed slaves. It maintains strong ties to America, and even has a flag that strongly resembles the flag of the US, although it has only one star and 11 stripes. Discussing Liberia are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

We thought when we researched Nauru previously that it was the most depressing place we would ever encounter. But we were wrong! Liberia is at the bottom end of most tables you want to be near the top in (GDP, communications infrastructure, life expectancy, infant mortality) and has suffered from all the plights you can expect in the region and more, all as a result of inequality, corruption, disease and civil war, but nonetheless, it has a unique story worth telling. Some sources which we found particularly useful in researching the episode were:

I would recommend you read, watch and listen to some of these sources if you want to learn more about the country than we could cram into the podcast.

Namibia (S1.01)

Audio: Namibia
In this week’s first episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Namibia, a large African nation, sharing its southern border with South Africa and with an Atlantic coastline of almost 1,000 miles, known as the ‘Skeleton Coast’. Major features include the Namib Desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world and the famous Fish River Canyon. The country is roughly similar in size to Pakistan bigger than France or Germany and one of the driest places on earth. Its history includes colonisation by Germany and South Africa, with independence coming in the 1990s. Today it is a stable and developing young democracy. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Ireland, respectively. (Music by Thomas O’Boyle)

File:Namibia homelands 78.jpeg

Namibia’s history spans over many many centuries and is defined by the movement of, and conflict between, various ethnic, national and colonial groups, starting with the San (bushmen), Khoikhoi pastoral groups such as the Nama, the Herero and Owambo and later the Oorlam – who were descended from Dutch settlers, Africans, and Malaysians among others.

Engraving of Jonker AfrikanerKaptein of the Orlam Nation (d. 1861)

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Schwerinsburg Castle in Windhoek from the German colonial period (Wikpedia)

Namibia became a German colony (German South West Africa) during the “Scramble for Africa” periodof European colonisation in the 1800s and was the location of what became known as the first genocide of the 20th century with up to 80% of the Nama and Herero people dying through violence, being driven to starvation in the desert or death in concentration camps over a short period. This put an end to the uprising led by Samuel Maharero and Hendrik Witbooi.

 

“My hunting grounds have become like a waterless land since he who settled here treats me in such an arrogant manner. And now where may we live – we shall go forth and search”

-Folk song, commenting on German treatment of the native population

During World War 1, South Africa occupied Namibia and consequently annexed the territory, ruling it essentially as a province despite international op
position and demands for self-determination; as a result Namibia experiences the discriminatory features of the apartheid system. Groups including SWAPO led miliary opposition to South Africa from the mid 1950s, eventually leading to independence in 1990.SWAPO Party Logo.png

In comparison to other countries in the region, with similar history of a small population of colonial descendants owning the majority of the property, Namibia has managed the transition to majority rule largely peacefully, pursuing incremental change in land ownership and is widely considered a very stable country nowadays. Compared to neighbouring countries, Namibia has a large degree of media freedom, for instance; over the past years, the country usually ranked in the upper quarter of the Press Freedom Index being on par with Canada and the best-positioned African country. Recent president Pohamba was awarded the Mo Ibrahim African Leadership Prize for his behaviour in office and willingness to leave power at the end of his constitutionally mandated term:

“During the decade of Hifikepunye Pohamba’s Presidency, Namibia’s reputation has been cemented as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights.”

The country also has the only constitution in the world that explicitly protects the environment and Namibia is very committed to conservationism, with 42% of the land area under some form of conservation control.

Some sources we consulted and recommend:

Some things that you might want to read further about:

  • “Apollo 11” Cave in the ||Karas region, where some of the oldest examples of portable prehistoric art have been discovered
  • The Herero and Namaqua genocide, labelled the “first genocide of the 20th century” was a harrowing period in Namibian history, resulting in the death of huge proportions of these peoples at the hands of German forces under Lothar von Trotha
  • Bondelswarts Affair – 1917 – a controversial incident in the period when South African was given the League of Nations mandate for the former German colony. An uprising occurred in opposition to a tax on dogs, as a result, hundreds of Khoi-khoi people were killed
  • Trailer for The Gods Must be Crazy, starring Namibian San actor N!xau ǂToma