Protection Against the Sun
A Basotho hat is a piece of headgear made from straw and of roughly conical shape. It is topped by a complicated knot about 5 centimetres in diameter. Basotho means 'people of Lesotho'.
Symbol of a Nation
The Basotho hat is the national emblem of the Kingdom of Lesotho, a country entirely within the borders of South Africa. It appeared on the previous national flag but was replaced when the flag changed in the early 1990s. It still features on most logos of Lesotho-based organisations.
The common belief is that the shape of the hat was inspired by the shape of one of the mountains visible from Thaba Tseka, which itself was the mountain fortress that was key to the establishment of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
In Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, stands a large building whose roof has been thatched to resemble a Basotho hat. As well as housing the tourist goods shop, this building serves as a universal point of reference for any directions in Maseru.
The hut was destroyed in the looting of 1998, but a body of concerned (and presumably lost) local residents raised the funds to rebuild it. It was reopened in January 2001.