About Kilimanjaro

(Kilimanjaro viewed from space, 1984)
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest (5895 metres) and most celebrated mountain in Africa.  Looming some 4900 metres above the plains that spread out from its base, the mountain dominates its surroundings. Composed of three separate volcanoes, massive and complex Kilimanjaro covers an area 6100 kilometres long and 65 kilometres wide. The volcanoes, whose lava fields overlapped and partially obliterated each other, began erupting approximately 2 million years ago. At the center is the culminating massif known as Kibo, which is permanently snowbound, flanked by the lower summits of Mawenzi to the east and Shira to the west. The peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi are joined by a broad saddle 11 kilometers long. Because of Kilimanjaro's great height, the mountain influences its own weather. Winds incoming from the Indian Ocean are deflected upward by the slopes and drop their moisture as rain and snow. This moisture results in a variety of vegetative zones that contrast dramatically with the savanna grasses and semidesert scrub on the surrounding plains. The mount's lower slopes, probably once forested, have been cleared for the cultivation of coffee, corn, and other crops. At higher elevations (approximately 3000 metres)  lies a belt of tropical rain forest that gives way to grasslands and moorlands. This belt, in turn, is replaced by high-altitude desert ( at approximately 4400 meters). At the highest elevations is a zone of permanent ice and snow that is responsible for the name Kilimanjaro, which in Swahili means "the mountain that glitters."