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Fadiouth – A Unique Island Made Almost Entirely of Clam Shells

Joal-Fadiouth is a small fishing village located at the far end of Petite Côte – a stretch of coast in Senegal. Joal is situated on the mainland and Fadiouth is an island just off the coast.  A narrow, 400-meter wooden bridge links the two areas. Fadiouth is special – it is almost entirely covered with clam shells.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Fadiouth have been harvesting molluscs. They scoop out the meat and use the shells to construct almost everything, even the island itself. The millions of seashells accumulated over the years have been held strong by the roots of mangroves, reeds and giant baobabs. Empty shells litter the streets; you can hardly step anywhere on Fadiouth Island without hearing a cracking sound from under your feet.

Fadiouth

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Say What? The Clicking Languages of South Africa

I had heard of African names with clicks before, like ǂXóõ, ǂHõã and !Kung, but I thought they were limited to just a few words. Now, after some research, I’ve realized that clicks are used quite extensively in many South African languages.

If you’re having trouble understanding the click and its use, think of it this way – it’s just like any other consonant used in the English language.

The credit for introducing clicks to a worldwide audience goes to singer Miriam Makeba, whose life has been celebrated on Google’s Doodles this year. In her 1957 hit single, Pata Pata, you can clearly hear clicks in the lyrics. “Everywhere we go, people often ask me, ‘How do you make that noise?’” she said during an interview in 1979. “It used to offend me because it isn’t a noise. It’s my language,” she clarified.

Xhosa-language

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Slum-Like African Resort Gives Rich Tourists a Taste of Hard Life

A Shanty is a small hut made out of old corrugated iron sheets or other waterproof material. It is a place of dwelling for the poor, often lacking in basic amenities like electricity or running water. To be living in one, you’d have to be going through an extremely rough patch in life.

Except of course, when your shanty is located in Shanty Town, and you’re just playing ‘poor’. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds, there are people in this world who think playing poor is a fun sport. And resorts like Shanty Town exist to help them achieve the experience.

Shanty Town is a part of Emoya Estate, a South African five-star luxury game reserve and spa. It comes equipped with corrugated metal huts that can accommodate up to 52 guests. Over here, the rich get to live like the poor. But no, not entirely like the poor. The environment is safe and the shanties are equipped with conveniences like running water, electricity and Wi-Fi. The interiors aren’t too bad either – the beds look clean and comfortable, there are refrigerators, televisions, tables, chairs and cabinets. Oh, and did I mention under-floor heating? Yes, they have that too.

ShantyTown

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Seeing Double in Nigeria’s Land of Twins

It may seem like you’re seeing double, but what you’re really looking at is twins, and lots of them! Welcome to Igbo-Obra, a farming community in the southwestern part of Nigeria, which proudly calls itself “the Nation’s Home of Twins”. The name is very appropriate because, as community leader Olayide Akinyemi states “there is hardly a family here without a set of twins.” The man knows what he’s talking about: he himself had 3 sets of twins and his own grandfather had 10 sets.

West Africa has the highest incidence of twins in the world, and this is especially true for the Yoruba people of Igbo-Obra, 5% of births being twins. It may not seem like a lot, but considering that the percentage is 1.2 in Western European countries and just 0.8 in Japan, it really is pretty unusual. Are they doing something special that makes women give birth to twins? Well, not really, except maybe eat lots of yams, like most other West Africans. It’s believed that yams contain a herbal equivalent of estrogen, called phytoestrogen, that may stimulate the ovaries to each produce an egg. Despite many people being skeptical about this theory, Akin Odukogble, gynecologist, claims that there are studies supporting the yam theory. However, there is no medical evidence to connect eating yams to having twins. The chief nursing officer at the Muyibi Yomi hospital believes that the explanation for so many birth twins is genetics: “if a family has a history of multiple births, this will continue from generation to generation”.

Igbo-Ora-twins2

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Share Breakfast with the Long Necks at Giraffe Manor

How do you talk to a Giraffe face-to-face? By peeking out of the top-floor window of a very high house, of course. That’s exactly what the owners of Giraffe Manor, in Kenya, do. And you could too, if you went to spend a few nights in one of the 6 rooms of the old manor turned hotel.

The residents of this unique tourist attraction are the Carr-Hartley family, along with eight Rothschild giraffes, one of the rarest subspecies on the planet. The English-style manor was built in the colonial era and is part of a 140-acre estate in the shadow of Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley, both 41, grew up close to the house in Nairobi when they were children and always dreamed of owning it someday. So once they started a family of their own and the house came up for sale, they jumped at the opportunity. Since Michael’s family has been involved in the protection of animals for several generations, they do not mind taking care of the endangered giraffes. In fact, they love it.

Giraffe-Manor-Kenya

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The Incredible Story of Tippi Degre, a Real Life Mowgli

Mowgli has always been one of the most-loved characters from children’s literature. I loved the Jungle Book cartoon movie when I was a kid and I must say it is a favorite even today. So when I heard about this real-life Mowgli character, I was fascinated.

Folklore and fairy-tales always mention that wild animals do not hurt the young ones of any species. But that theory hasn’t exactly been tested out in the real world, and there have been cases where babies were reportedly killed by man-eating lions or tigers. But that’s what makes Tippi Degre’s story that more special. Now 23 years old, Tippi is the only child of French wildlife photographer parents, Alain Degre and Sylvie Robert. Her parents’profession and their work in Africa made the young girl’s childhood unique, giving her the opportunity to interact with wild animals in incredible ways. She was named after actress Tippi Hedren, who is said to have kept fully-grown lions as pets in her home, and little Tippi was no different from her namesake, demonstrating early on the ability to form unusual bonds with the creatures of the wild.

Tippi-Degre

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The Sacred Antogo Fishing Ritual, or How to Catch All the Fish in a Lake in 15 Minutes

Just beneath the village of Bamba, in the Northern part of Dogon country in Mali, lies a small, yet sacred lake, where fishing is permitted only once a year – during the unique ritual called Antogo.

In the past, Bamba is said to have been covered in lush green forests. The lake, which is considered to be sacred and populated with good spirits, used to offer tons of fish that contributed to local food requirements. But with changes in climate, desertification, and the passage of time, the region gradually became dry, infertile and inhospitable. The locals now face huge problems such as unavailability of water, but the lake still represents a precious resource to the local Dogons, but one which they exhaust every year during Antogo. The event is held on the 6th month of the dry season, generally in May, but the exact date is fixed each year by the council of wise men. Saturdays are market days in Bamba, and for the first three market days of the month wooden sticks are placed in the middle of the lake, acting as a signal, a warning that the ritual is getting closer. On the day that is finally designated as the day of Antogo, hundreds gather from all parts of Mali around Bamba’s lake. The 3 biggest groups are formed by the most respected and ancient families of various Dogon villages. The group from Bamba itself is usually the largest. These groups of people maintain a collective mystical silence, except for the wise who recite incantations and praise deities. When they are done speaking, the ritual itself – and all the magic associated with it – begins.

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Pink Lip Tattoos – The Latest in Nigerian Men’s Fashion

One of the most bizarre beauty procedure I’ve recently come across is tattooing the lips pink, which is apparently very popular in the African county of Nigeria. The main reason for this practice seems to be that women find men with pink lips more attractive.

The other day, someone emailed me a link to a video of a Nigerian guy getting his lower lip tattooed pink, in what looks like a very unhygienic tattoo parlor. To be honest, I thought it was just an isolated case, a guy who just wanted to be different, like the girl who tattooed Drake’s name on her forehead. But it got me intrigued, and after doing some research online, it seems this really is a trend among Nigerian men. According to Battabox.com, who documented the procedure in the short video, young men pay around 7,000 Nigerian Naira ($45) to have their black lips cleaned of excess skin and tattooed with a pink paint to make them lighter. Although the guy in the video didn’t show any signs of pain, having a sensitive spot like the lips tattooed can’t be very pleasant.

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The Fattening Farms of Mauritania – Force-Feeding Young Girls in the name of Beauty

While the whole world is obsessed over getting thin, it seems there are far-flung places in the world today where fat is still considered a thing of beauty. Not in a good way, though. In the West African nation of Mauritania, it is so important for girls to be fat that they are sent away to fat camp – the opposite of the western version – during school holidays, to put on oodles of weight.

According to women’s rights campaigner Mint Ely, girls as young as five are subjected to the tradition known as Leblouh each year. Leblouh is an attempt to groom young girls for potential suitors, involving the consumption of gargantuan amounts of food; even vomit, if it refuses to stay down. Ely says that in Mauritania, a woman’s size indicates the space she occupies in her husband’s heart. So to make sure no other woman can ever have room, girls are sent away for Leblouh at special farms where older women will administer the necessary diet. It’s rather appalling to know that 5, 7 and 9-year-olds are expected to consume a daily diet of two kilos of pounded millet mixed with two cups of butter and 20 liters of camel’s milk. Their daily consumption comes up to a whopping 16,000 calories.

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Nigerian Artisan Covers Car in Woven Raffia Palm Cane to Advertise His Business

Ojo Obaniyi, a talented artisan from the Nigerian city of Ibadan has come up with an ingenious way of advertising his raffia palm cane weaving services – he covered the inside and outside of his Volkswagen pickup in the natural material.

There are a lot of raffia palm cane weavers in Nigeria, but one of them has managed to attract the attention of the whole internet, after photos of his unique advertisement-on-wheels were picked up by major news sites. 40-year-old Ojo Obaniyi had the original idea to cover up both the inside and outside of his small Volkswagen pickup in raffia palm cane. That includes the entire car body, the wheel caps, chairs, steering wheel and the entire dashboard. When he was done, he jumped in his one-of-a-kind vehicle and started driving around the city, attracting the attention of passers-by. Ojo, who has 20 years of experience weaving raffia palm cane, said “I wanted to prove a point that it is not only the educated elite that can make positive changes in society. We, the artisans also have talents to effect a change and make a positive impact in the society. That is why I decided that I too must do something that will make people to recognize me and know me across the whole world and by extension prove to the world that African and indeed the entire Black Race have very talented people.” This just goes to show you creative ideas and talent don’t need big advertising budgets to be effective.

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Black Gums Are Considered a Sign of Beauty in West Africa

I’ve read about people getting tattoos on the weirdest places of their bodies, but this one just beats them all. Never before have I heard of people getting their gums tattooed. Not in any particular design, but just a uniform black color. This is actually a popular practice among women in West African countries like Senegal, because over there apparently, black gums are a thing of beauty.

Tattooed black gums are especially popular in small towns and villages like Thies, in Senegal. Women here practice this ancient tradition to get a smile that is considered more attractive. Of course, the process is nothing short of painful. Marieme, from Thies, is one such young girl to have gone through the procedure. I watched a documentary on YouTube that covered her journey from having regular gums to the more desirable black variety. Before she went for it, she said, “I want black gums to obtain a more beautiful smile. It’s become an obsession. I do fear the procedure. But I’ll be OK.”

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Dung Spitting Competition Will Leave a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

Kudu Dung Spitting is an African sport popular enough to have its own official competition, in which contestants have to put a kudu dung pellet in their mouth and spit it as far as possible.

Some people use dung to make coffee taste better, but in some parts of Africa it’s used to fuel a weird pastime called Bokdrol Spoek. Roughly translated as “spitting buck droppings  this quirky tradition has people putting dung pellets in their mouth and spitting them as far as they can. The origins of kudu dung spitting can be traced back to tribal hunters who had difficulties catching the fast antelope. Most times the only sign of the animal was a trail of dung, which meant it had been there but it was long gone. Apart from swearing at the elusive kudus, hunters would engage in a contest of pellet spitting, to pass the time. In countries like South Africa, the disgusting custom is so popular that there’s even a championship held every year to find out who can spit a piece of antelope poop the farthest.

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The Daily Talk – Liberia’s Blackboard Newspaper

The Daily Talk is a unique news medium published on a blackboard in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. As most Liberians lack the money and means to access conventional mass media, this chalk-written daily “newspaper” is the most widely read report in Monrovia.

In the Western world, many are already talking about the death of written media, and the coming age of online information, but in some countries, access to old-fashion newspapers is still a thing of the future. Many Monrovians can’t afford to buy real newspapers or electricity to access the internet, so Alfred J. Sirleaf, the founder of this blackboard newspaper had to come up with a way to bring information to the people in an inexpensive way. He believes a well-informed people is the key to Liberia’s rebirth so ever since he started his unique venture  on Tubman Boulevard, in 2000, in central Monrovia, he’s been providing valuable news every single day. For local news, he relies on a team of volunteer reporters who come to him with stories, while for international events he goes to an internet cafe to access sites like the BBC, because he doesn’t own a computer. Then, in the newsroom, a small wooden shed attached to the back of his blackboard, he updates The Daily Talk with chalk. He’s the editor, the designer and sole employee of the unique newspaper, yet he manages to get his message across.

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Man Single Handedly Carves Orthodox Churches in the Side of Mountain

It’s the stuff that ancient legends are made of, but I guess you could call the story of Aba Defar a modern-day miracle. How else would you explain an old man carving four churches on a mountain side of the Ethiopian highlands, all on his own?

Aba Defar is a man driven by his faith in religion. At one point in life he was a family man and a weaver by profession. But all that changed with a simple dream he had in 1959. The Holy Spirit appeared in his dream, showing him a mountain church carved out of sheer rock. The dream kept repeating itself over the next 30 years, but he never knew what to make of it. It was when he had a vision that he finally understood that his life’s mission was awaiting him.

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Akodessewa Fetish Market – Africa’s Voodoo Supermarket

Togo’s Akodessewa Fetish Market is recognized as the largest fetish market in the world, a place where Voodoo practitioner can find anything they need for their rituals.

The practice of voodoo began in West Africa, before being taken to America by slaves, and in countries like Togo, Ghana, or Nigeria the religion is very much alive. Many people believe healers using animal parts and strange talismans can invoke spirits with their bizarre rituals, and solve their problems. And if there’s one place where voodoo priests can stock up on their creepy supplies, it’s the Akodessewa Fetish Market, in Togo’s capital city, Lome. Just think of it as an outdoor pharmacy where various animal parts, bone statues and herbs take the place of conventional medicine.

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