Where is the Kingdom in the Sky?
Lesotho, formerly called Basutoland under the British colonial administration (1868-1966), is an independent, democratically governed nation-state located within the current boundaries of the Republic of South Africa. This constitutional monarchy, often dubbed the Mountain Kingdom, the Kingdom in the Sky, or the Switzerland of Africa, has its roots in the nation-building efforts of Moshoeshoe (pronounced Mo-shwe-shwe) the Great, who united rather disparate peoples during his rule at Thaba-Bosiu from 1824-1870.
Lesotho at that time was one of many polities, white, black, and coloured, that existed within southern Africa. By the 1890s, however, four white political entities (Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal Republic, and Natal) came to dominate the sub-continent, and after the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, these four entities were joined together in 1910 to form the Union of South Africa, leaving Lesotho surrounded by a much larger and powerful neighbour. The Basotho people have striven over the past century to maintain their independence and develop a viable future for themselves as a nation.
Lesotho has a bi-cameral Parliament. King Letsie III is the Head of State, and the king is advised by a democratically elected Prime Minister.
The whole of Lesotho has an elevation above 4800 feet (1400 metres), the only country in the world with all of its territory above 1000 metres. The lower western part of Lesotho is called the Lowlands, when in fact it is a high plateau dotted with flat-topped mountains (mesas) while the rest of the country to the east is covered with mountains (Maloti and Drakensberg) rising to over 3400 metres, Thabana-Ntlenyana being the highest peak (3481m) south of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Lesotho is thus the watershed for all of southern Africa.
Although Lesotho was originally composed of diverse peoples united together by Moshoeshoe, 90% of the population today speaks Sesotho as its mother tongue, about 8% speak Xhosa or other Nguni languages, and there are smaller numbers of Chinese, Indian, and other peoples whom all call themselves Basotho.