South Africa – the Rainbow Nation – is a multi-ethnic society with many cultures and religions.
The country has 11 official languages. That's among the highest number of any country in the world.
The late Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa. He received the Freedom of the City of Glasgow in 1981. Mandela and F.W. de Klerk won the Noble Prize for Peace in 1993 for bringing a non-violent end to apartheid.
The interior of South Africa is a vast, flat and sparsely populated scrubland, which is drier towards the north-west along the Namib Desert. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well-watered.
The country is home to many species of antelope, like the kudu, springbok, wildebeest, impala, oryx and gemsbok. When you go on safari, you can also see other wild animals such as lions, elephants, giraffes and monkeys.
On the South African coast you'll find penguins. Boulders Beach is one of the few places where you can get close to a breeding colony of African penguins. They used to be known as 'Jackass Penguins' because of their donkey-like bray.
You'll also see seals on the coast, and you can go cage-diving among the great white shark in the coastal waters.
Here are some suggestions for when you feel peckish. Bobotie is a typical Cape Malay food, containing rice, lamb and spices. Koeksisters taste like donuts, and are soaked in a sticky sweet sauce. Mealie Pap is corn porridge. Biltong is cured meat – a tasty South African snack.
South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and won. The country also hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
South Africa joined the Commonwealth in 1931.
It debuted in the Hamilton 1930 Commonwealth Games. South Africans have taken part in all Games since 1994. Prior to these Games, they participated from 1930–38 and 1950–58.
At the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, South Africa won 38 medals. Four years later, at Delhi 2010, a further 33 medals took the country's overall Games total to 312.
The RMS St Helena is the last Royal Mail Ship in operation. She ferries between Cape Town and St Helena, and will transport the Glasgow 2014 Queen's Baton from South Africa to St Helena!