[Editor’s note: Grab bag of Natural Earth admin-2 and admin-0 map units in last week’s Economist magazine.]
Republished from the Economist.
Socotra: A still-enchanted island
Will Yemen’s magical island manage to stay aloof?
MAROONED in pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa but tied to unruly Yemen 400km (250 miles) away, the archipelago of Socotra has a forbidding look. Scorching summer winds strand ships. So fierce is the constant gale that it has whipped beachfuls of blinding white sand into dunes hundreds of metres high that ride up the cliffs. Even in winter it is blisteringly hot. Rats, the sole occupants of one rocky islet, are so ravenous that seasonal fishermen sleep in their skiffs, afraid to languish ashore.
Yet Socotra, whose main island is the size of Majorca or Long Island, is one of the world’s last enchanted places. The 50,000 native Socotris, speaking four dialects of a singsong ancient language unintelligible to other Yemenis, subsist on fish, goats and not much else. But they inhabit a wildly varied landscape of surreal beauty. The sea teems with giant lobsters, turtles and leaping dolphins. A unique breed of civet cat roams the limestone plateaus that are seamed with gorges carved by rushing streams, and spiked by finger-like granite towers rising to 1,500 metres. The cats are just one among 700 native species of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.
South Sudan’s biggest ethnic group: On your tractor, if you can
The Dinka will decide whether Africa’s latest state-in-waiting fails or prospers
THE Anglican Bishop of Bor, Nathaniel Garang, sits under the little shade afforded by a thorn tree. His dusty compound has a few mud and straw huts, some plastic chairs, and goats reaching up to bare branches on their hind legs. The bishop is around 70, he guesses, and in reflective mood. He wears a small brass cross given to him by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Entering Canterbury cathedral, he remarks, was a special moment in his life.
Mr Garang is a Dinka, the largest of south Sudan’s tribes. Specifically, he is a Bor Dinka (see map), the first of the Dinka groups to become Christian and be educated. Their historic missionary post, founded just upriver on the Nile in 1905, was burnt down during Sudan’s long civil war between the Arab and Muslim north and the Christian and animist south that ended only five years ago. The cathedral in Bor was also shot up, but still attracts several thousand worshippers.
The Netherlands Antilles: The joy of six
Curaçao savours the prospect of autonomy
AS independence struggles go, the process of dismantling the federation of the Netherlands Antilles is about as orderly and peaceful as it gets. On 10-10-10 (October 10th 2010) Curaçao, St Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius will go their separate ways—but only up to a point. Curaçao and St Maarten will become self-governing territories, following the example of Aruba, a sixth Dutch-speaking island in the Caribbean which broke away in 1986. But all will remain under the Dutch crown. The tiniest three islands—Saba, Bonaire and St Eustatius—will become overseas municipalities, with a similar status to towns in the Netherlands.
The attractions of autonomy are obvious in Curaçao (population: 142,000), the most populous island. It will take over government assets such as a large oil refinery and one of the Caribbean’s biggest dry docks, both in Willemstad, the capital, and the taxes from thriving tourist and offshore-banking industries. Generously, the Dutch will pay off 70% of the federation’s $3.3 billion debt. Local leaders have ambitious plans to develop new port facilities and hotels, and to modernise the dry dock.