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English is the second official language, dating back to 1868 when Lesotho was placed under the British for protection against South African aggression. Picturesque villages, herdboys with their flocks, men on horseback, and women wearing the national dress of Moshoeshoe depicted in the angora wool wall hangings and rugs of Basotho fame.The Basotho hat, a conical woven hat with a distinctive topknot, is a symbol of Lesotho's unification.The culture is cohesive, with Basotho comprising over 99 percent of the country's population, the remainder being of Asian of European origin.Most Asians are traders while the Europeans are businessmen, technicians, government officials, missionaries, and teachers.
A long rainy season during the summer months (December to February) combined with freezing conditions in the winter (June to August) creates adverse travel conditions which isolate much of the highland areas.Moshoeshoe established fortresses in the mountains and consolidated the Sotho-speaking inhabitants into a nation in the early 1800s.During the middle of the 1800s, the Basotho nation lost much of its territory to the Boers in a series of wars.It is also described as "The Hostage State" due to the unfortunate situation of being completely surrounded by and dependent upon the Republic of South Africa. Covering 11,718 square miles (30,355 square kilometers), the Kingdom of Lesotho is approximately the size of Maryland.The area is ruggedly mountainous, landlocked, and completely surrounded by The Republic of South Africa.
Both names derive from the common language, Sotho, which was spoken by the many groups which united to form the nation in the early 1800s.