There certainly are many things to divide us, but there is one aspect of Africa that can’t be argued over: our natural heritage. Proof of that can be found in the amount of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we have spread out around our continent.
Here are seven top World Heritage sites around Africa that will allow a moment to appreciate our continent’s beauty and how privileged we really are to call it home.
Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin)
Built between 1625 and 1900, the Royal Palaces of Abomey represent the long-gone monarchy, which was one of the most powerful kingdoms in West and Central Africa. Twelve Kings of Benin had their palaces built within the same cob-wall dome, which is estimated to cover close to 47 hectares. It features ten palaces built next to each other according to the kingdom’s succession. All palaces were built with traditional materials and polychrome bas-reliefs. The area is now a great historical and cultural monument in Benin.
Ruins of Loropeni (Burkina Faso)
Located in southern Burkina Faso, the Ruins of Loropeni are one of the ancient World Heritage sites and the country’s first World Heritage feature. The area is estimated to cover more than 11,000 square meters and consists of a wide range of structures including stone walls surrounding the historical fortress. This centuries-old site is suspected to have been built by the Lohron and Kulango people, and is said to have served as a trade center for trans-Saharan gold traders who existed in the 11th century.
Great Zimbabwe National Monument (Zimbabwe)
These ruins bear a unique testimony to the lost civilization of the Shona, between the 11th and 15th centuries. It’s an ancient stone city that covers an area of about 80 hectare and the granite dry-stone walls took immense skill to construct. Builders even managed to incorporate massive granite boulders into some of the structures.
Appreciate this: An ancient legend tells that this used to be the capital of the Queen of Sheba.
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (South Africa)
This site joins South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana in the north and consists of a vast expanse of savanna at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. But in the Iron Age, this site was a flourishing metropolis. Only in the 1930s did they discover an ancient grave filled with gold-work on the border of these three countries.
Appreciate this: Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the 14th century.
Historic Town of Grand-Bassam (Ivory Coast)
Built between the 19th and 20th centuries, the historical Town of Grand-Bassam was the first capital city of the Ivory Coast. It was architecturally designed to cater to a myriad of activities including commerce, settlement for both European colonizers and Africans, and administration. The town was a significant center for trade, transport, and legal matters, and it remains one of the most important symbols of the complex social relations between European settlers and native Africans. It contains functional houses built with great diligence to symbolize the unmistakable colonial architecture.
The Fortified Town of Harar Jugol (Ethiopia)
The historic town of Harar Jugol is located in eastern Ethiopia, right in the middle of a massive savanna. Its walls are believed to have been constructed between the 13th and 16th centuries. Considered a sacred city by the country’s Islamic population, the entire town comprises approximately 82 mosques and 102 shrines. But the most spectacular part of it is the unparalleled interior design of its townhouses, which represent the real Harar’s cultural heritage.
Fort Jesus (Kenya)
Located in Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal city, Fort Jesus was built between 1593 and 1596 by Portuguese invaders. Its outstanding design reflects the Giovanni Battista Cairati design, which was synonymous with Portuguese military’s fortification of the 16th century. Built to protect the port of Mombasa, the fort’s most outstanding feature is the massive protection trench. The site, which covers about 2.5 hectares, is a true landmark in Kenya’s history.