18 April is UNESCO’s International Day for Monuments and Sites established in 1983. Also known as World Heritage Day, it aims to raise public awareness about the diversity and vulnerability of the world’s built monuments and heritage sites and the efforts required to protect and conserve them.
So there is no better time than today to take a tour of some of the leading world heritage sites across our beloved Africa. The continent is home to a multitude of world heritage sites. Ethiopia and Morocco are home to the most with nine sites; followed by Tunisia and South Africa at eight sites; and Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, and Tanzania at seven. Eleven countries have only a single site each. We can’t of course name them all but here’s a selection of a few breathtaking sites from across Africa.
The Great Zimbabwe National Monument
World Heritage Day incidentally also coincides with Zimbabwe’s Independence Day so we begin with one of the nation’s leading heritage sites. The city, now in ruins, was an important trading center between the 11th and 15th centuries, and was capital of the Bantu civilisation.
Island of Gorée, Senegal
The island was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast from the 15th to the 19th century.
Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, Nigeria
The dense forests are one of the final remnants of high forests in southern Nigeria. It is the last sacred grove of the Yoruba culture.
Amphitheatre of El Jem, Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of El Jem, built during the 3rd century, is North Africa’s largest amphitheatre, and the largest one built outside of Italy, with a capacity of 35,000 spectators, and “illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome.”
Old Towns of Djenné, Mali
Inhabited since 250 BCE, the city was an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade. It contains 2,000 traditional houses.
Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania
The volcanic massif Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest point at 5,895 metres(19,341 ft), and is surrounded by a park with savanna and forest featuring numerous mammals.
Rock Hewn Churches, Lalibela, Ethiopia
The site contains eleven medieval cave churches from the 13th century.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Located on the border of plain and mountain forests, the park in south-western Uganda is home to over 160 species of trees, over a hundred species of ferns, and various species of birds and butterflies. Many endangered species are within its boundaries as well, including the mountain gorilla.
Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya
Fort Jesus is a Portuguese fort built from 1593 to 1596 on Mombasa Island to guard the old port of Mombasa, Kenya.
Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves, Niger
Africa’s largest protected area, located in the Saharan desert of Ténéré, consists of the volcanic rock mass of Aïr and a small isolated Sahelian pocket with unique flora and fauna. The natural reserve was placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in 1992, due to the increase in military conflicts and the hostage-taking of six reserve staff in February.
Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur, Egypt
The former capital features funerary monuments, like rock tombs, mastabas, temples, and pyramids. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, South Africa
The site consists of eight protected areas that are among the richest in plant life worldwide, containing nearly 20% of Africa’s total flora. Its scientific value is demonstrated by the presence of fire and radiation adaptivity in plants and seed dispersal by insects.
Dja Faunal Reserve, Cameroon
Among Africa’s largest and best protected rain forests, the Cameroonian reserve is almost completely surrounded by the Dja River and contains 107 mammal species, of which five are threatened.
Medina of Marrakech, Morocco
The town was founded in the 1070s and remained a political, economic, and cultural centre for a long time. Monuments from that period include the Koutoubia Mosque, the kasbah, and the battlements. The city also holds newer features, including palaces