The Republic of Botswana, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is bordered by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Gaborone is the capital city. Other major cities include Francistown and Selebi-Pikwe.
Botswana's terrain is mainly plateau (tableland). The principal river is the Okavango.
The country is semi-arid with warm winters and hot summers
The Kalahari Desert covers around eighty-four percent of Botswana. Although a dry area, vegetation such as grasses and acacia bushes grow in the Kalahari.
The Okavango river delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, is on the edge of the Kalahari. The Delta provides water for elephants, zebras, hippos, birds and other wildlife.
The Kalahari Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta are part of Botswana's system of National Parks. Other protected areas include Chobe National Park, the Nxai Pan National Park and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
Villages in Botswana were traditionally built around the meeting place (kgkota) and cattle kraal. "Lekgaph", a traditional art form, was used to decorate the walls of houses and courtyards. Since independence, buildings such as schools, modern houses and shopping malls have been constructed throughout the populated areas.
Gaborone is a modern city with offices, hotels, blocks of flats and shopping malls. Some colonial buildings remain in the capital.
The population of Botswana is approximately 1,640,115 (2005).
The majority of the people (79%) are Setswana (or Tswana); 11% are Kalanga and 3% Basarwa.
The main languages in Botswana are English and Setswana. English is the official language and Setswana is the national language.
Over sixty percent of the people are Christian; others have indigenous beliefs.
Millet and sorghum are staple foods. Both are made into porridge with various additional ingredients. Maize and beans, although less drought resistant than millet and sorghum, are also grown.
Stews are supplemented with meat (beef, goat, mutton, lamb and chicken). Beef is boiled, barbecued and dried. Fish is available from the rivers. Vegetables include bean leaves, spinach, cabbage, onions, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes. Groundnuts are also used in recipes. Dumplings and a number of types of bread are made from imported flour.
Water melons and a type of melon called lerotse are grown.
Popular drinks include the local beer (made from millet and sorghum), palm wine and a ginger non-alcoholic drink.
The World Heritage site at Tsodilo provides evidence of human habitation in the area dating back to the times of early man.
Missonaries and traders arrived in the country in the early nineteenth century and gold mining by European prospectors started at the end of the 1860s.
Conflict between the Batswana people and Boer settlers led to the establishment of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (1885).
Bechuanaland did not become independent until 1966 when the country became the Republic of Botswana.
Botswana's economy has maintained a high rate of growth since independence in 1966.
The discovery of diamonds in 1967 has been one of the most important factors in the country's economic success. Other mineral resources include coal, copper, iron ore, nickel, salt and silver.
Vehicle manufacturing, subsistence farming and the production of beef all play an important role in the economy. The tourist industry has also grown steadily and is a major source of foreign currency.
Music and dance is an integral part of life in Botswana. An annual festival of dance and music, attended by schools, colleges and music groups, provides an opportunity to celebrate the traditional arts.
The National Museum and Art Gallery in Gaborone exhibits the country's paintings and crafts. Basket weaving is perhaps the most well known craft in Botswana. Other crafts include pottery, woodcarving (animals and household utensils) and San jewellery.
Football is a popular sport in Botswana; the national team is known as the "Zebras".
Other games played include softball, volleyball and tennis.
Botswana is represented at the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the All-Africa Games.
Christmas, Easter and New Year's Day are holidays.
Other days celebrated include Sir Seretse Khama Day - the first president of Botswana (1 July), President Day (16 July) and Botswana Day (Independence Day, 30 September, 1966).