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Look at the Beauty of These “Sh*thole” Countries

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Its name means “the land of high mountains” and it’s nicknamed “the Pearl of the Antilles” for its spectacular landscape. It occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, is the most mountainous nation in the Caribbean, and became the world’s first independent black republic in 1804.

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El Salvador

“The Land of Volcanoes” has over 20 to boast in its territory, two of which are currently active. This country is one of the few countries in the world experiencing reforestation in its rainforests. Along with five national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Joya de Ceren, considered the “Pompeii of the Americas”), El Salvador graces the world with its famous coffee and pupusas.

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The birthplace of humanity as well as Pan-Africanism (a united Africa, i.e. the African Union), Ethiopia has been marking the progress of humans since humans began. Considered “the roof of Africa” due to its numerous mountains, Ethiopia is also home to the Danakil Depression, the lowest point on Earth, a lava lake some 380 feet below sea level.

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The “Giant of Africa” is so nicknamed due to the size of land the country covers as well as the diversity of its people. The rich tropical rainforests, grasslands, rugged highlands and plateaus, mangrove saltwater swamps, as well as one of the world’s largest river deltas are just a few in the range of Nigeria’s extensive landscape. “Nollywood” is one of the largest movie industries in the world.

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Senegal seems to offer it all: grassland, deserts, savannahs, forests and wetlands, as well as incredible beaches frequented by tourists and locals alike. Preservation is very important to the Senegalese: with six national parks, plus other types of protected areas including multiple World Heritage Sites, a UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve, and the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary.

Senegal is famous for its tradition of storytelling as well as its excellent music, and the griots–or poets/historians–have kept West African history alive for thousands of years.

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Ghanese culture emphasizes respect for everyone in society, which is diverse in ethnicity and religion. It consistently ranks as Africa’s most peaceful the Global Peace Index. Its tropical rainforest is home to over 40 species of larger mammals including forest elephants, buffalo, meerkats, and lions. Tourists are welcome to camp and take a safari, backpack or luxuriate, and even take public transport to enjoy beaches, historical sites, and National Parks. Ghana offers universal healthcare and is enjoying a boom as a medical tourism destination.

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With at least 38% of the country’s surface dedicated to national parks, reserves, and wildlife management areas, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Despite that, it has a strong tradition as a stable representative democracy in Africa. The country takes sustainability seriously, with a “high quality, low impact” policy for tourism, especially to the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world, an oasis in the Kalahari desert.

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South Africa

Working through its violent past of apartheid, South Africa now moves toward progressive politics and equality for citizens: 11 official languages have equal status; same-sex marriage is recognized; its moniker is “the Rainbow Nation” for its varied population; and it is the only country in the world to build and dismantle the whole of its nuclear weapons program. With stunning scenery and record-breaking animals–the largest land mammal (elephant), the largest bird (ostrich), the tallest animal (giraffe), the largest fish (whale shark), the largest reptile (leatherback turtle), the fastest land mammal (cheetah), and the largest antelope (eland)–you’ll find superlatives all over this country.

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The highlands of Kenya include Mount Kenya and a vantage point for Mount Kilimanjaro (at home in Tanzania). The “Big Five” game animals–lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant–call Kenya home. The Serengeti Migration of the wildebeest, in which 2 million animals travel nearly 2,000 miles, is listed among the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Over 40 ethnic communities call Kenya home, including the Maasai, a semi-nomadic tribe who have sustained their traditional lifestyle.

Kenya welcomes hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution in neighboring nations.

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Sudan has a troubled history of conflict and humanitarian crises, especially in Darfur, which has impacted civilians, notably women and children, and disrupts basic services. Access to many areas in conflict remain denied. But the country itself still boasts hope and beauty. The Blue and White Nile rivers join here to form the River Nile, the world’s longest river. It’s home to more pyramids than Egypt (over 250) which date back as far as 2600 BC. The Nubian pyramids are currently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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