The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don’t even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, and the summit of Africa.
Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 meters – to an imperious 5,895 meters (19,336 feet).
Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates.
The landscape on Kilimanjaro is very beautiful. The mountain can be divided into 5 climatic zones, each with its own fauna and flora. The lower reaches of the mountain are dominated by evergreen forests. At approx. 3,000m the landscape starts to change into a shrub land setting. At around 4,000m the landscape becomes very arid and rocky, similar to a lunar landscape. The fourth zone consists of a very fine glacial screen / silt dessert setting. The top of Kilimanjaro is partially snow-capped with large glaciers interspersed between the volcanic craters. The glaciers have been receding over the past 40 years, though.
Good to know:
It is commonly perceived that Queen Victoria of England gave her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Mount Kilimanjaro as a birthday present. However, this is not the case. In fact, Karl Peters, a German traveler in Africa and one of the founders of today’s Tanzania, snuck into Tanganyika and persuaded various Chagga chieftains to sign treaties in which they agreed to cede their territories to his Society for German Colonization.