Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest city and capital of Gauteng province, began as a 19th-century gold-mining settlement. Its sprawling Soweto township was once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Other Soweto museums that recount the struggle to end segregation include the somber Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, a former prison complex. Commonly known as Jo’burg or Jozi, this rapidly changing city is the vibrant heart of South Africa. After almost 20 years of decline and decay, Johannesburg is now looking optimistically towards the future. Its center is smartening up and new loft apartments and office developments are being constructed at a rapid pace. The hipster-friendly neighborhood of Maboneng is considered one of the most successful urban renewal projects in the world. However, the wealth divide remains stark, and crime and poverty haven't been eliminated.
Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, colloquially named the Mother City. Cape Town is a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast, on a peninsula beneath the imposing Table Mountain. Slowly rotating cable cars climb to the mountain’s flat top, from which there are sweeping views of the city, the busy harbor, and boats heading for Robben Island, the notorious prison that once held Nelson Mandela, which is now a living museum. A coming-together of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes, there's nowhere quite like Cape Town, a singularly beautiful city crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain National Park.
The Great Temple of Abu Simbel, in Nubia near Egypt’s southern border, is among the most awe-inspiring monuments of Egypt. It was cut into the living rock by King Ramesses II (the Great) of the Nineteenth Dynasty, around 1264 BC. The temple is most well known for the four imposing seated colossal statues that dominate its façade. One of these collapsed because of an ancient earthquake, and its fragments can still be seen on the ground. Colossal standing statues of the king line the main hall, leading to the sanctuary where four deities are sat: Amun‑Ra, Ra‑Horakhty, Ptah, and a deified version of Ramesses II. The temple was built with such precision that on two days a year, the 22nd of February and 22nd of October, the sun’s rays enter the temple, cross the main hall, and illuminate the innermost statues. These dates are thought to correspond to the coronation and birthday of Ramesses II. Another rock-cut temple to the north, known as the Small Temple, is dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertari. On the façade of the Small Temple, her colossi are the same size as those of her husband, a very rare example of such display. The two temples were moved from their original location in 1968 after the Aswan High Dam was built, which threatened to submerge them. The relocation was completed thanks to an international effort led by UNESCO, and the temple was admitted into the list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.