• Rediet Tadele

Exploring World Heritage Sites in Africa

Africa is home to a dazzling array of World Heritage Sites. From the powerful Victoria Falls in Zambia, which creates a magical mist that can be seen from over 20 km away to the sand dunes in Namibia. In this article, we will be exploring some of the many World Heritage Sites in Africa


Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove - Nigeria


This is a sacred grove along the banks of the Osun River just outside Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria. It is considered one of the last sacred groves in the Yoruba religion. The Osun River is regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the Yoruba gods. Alongside the river, there are several sites dedicated to the goddess. In total, there are 40 shrines, 2 palaces, 5 sacred places, sanctuaries, sculptures, and artwork. Being the abode of the goddess Osun, it is still an active site where people can attend one of the 9 worship points along the river bank with designated priests and priestesses. The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is seen as an important link to Yoruba culture and identity and is a place where people can come to worship. There are statues of other deities in the forest as well, such as Obatala, the orisha of creation, and Iya Mapo the orisha of women's crafts like pottery and dyeing.


Every August, thousands come to Osogbo for the Osun-Osogbo Festival, which is a festival of the goddess Osun.

Photo Credits:Auskid1215, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Victoria Falls - Zambia & Zimbabwe


Victoria Falls is one of the most breathtaking sites in the world. The water from the Zambezi River flows from plunges over a wide basalt cliff. Victoria Falls is located at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ferociousness of the water as it cuts through several gorges creates a mist that can be seen from over 20km away. The Kololo tribe who lived in the area in the 1800s are credited with naming it ‘Mosi-Oa-Tunya’ which translates to ‘smoke that thunders’. According to Britannica, Victoria Falls is twice the size of Niagara Falls and has a mean fall flow of about 33,000 cubic feet.


Aldabra Atoll - Seychelles


Aldabra Atoll is one of the largest raised coral reefs in the world and comprises of four large islands that enclose a shallow lagoon. The islands rise about 8 meters above sea level. The remoteness of Aldabra as a result of its location in the Indian sea and lack of freshwater has meant that it has largely been avoided by humans. The ecological processes on the island have been untouched by humans and is home to a variety of species of animals and plants that are only found in Aldabra. Furthermore, Aldabra is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises. There are over 100,000 giant tortoises at Aldabra.


Photo Credit: Ron Van Oers, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, via Wikimedia Commons


Namib Sand Sea - Namibia


When one pictures a desert, images that come to mind are miles and miles of sand and immense heat. Fog is not usually the first thing that springs to mind, which makes the Namib Sand Sea so extraordinary. The Namib Sand Sea in Namibia is the only coastal desert in the world, and primarily gets it water from fog. According to UNESCO, the site is composed of two dune systems, an ancient semi-consolidated one overlain by a younger active one. The desert dunes are formed by the transportation of materials thousands of kilometers from the hinterland, that are carried by river, ocean current, and wind.


Robben Island - South Africa


Robben Island has been used as a prison from the 17th century to 1996 and was used for a lot of political prisoners. Political activist Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there for 18 of the 27 years he served for fighting against apartheid. Nelson Mandela went on to become President of South Africa in 1994. Other political prisoners from Robben Island that went on to become President are Kgamete Metlante and Jacob Zuma.


Image of Nelson Mandela's cell at Robben Island. Photo Credit: Serena_Tang via Flickr

Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi - Uganda


This is the site of the burial ground for four kabakes (king of Buganda) and remains an important political and religious site for the Ganda people. It is located in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and is about 26 hectares on the Kasuti Hill in Kampala.


Harar - Ethiopia


Harar is a city that is a testament to its changing history. The city is a maze of narrow streets, with traditional houses that show influence from the Middle East and India. The walls around Harar were built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Furthermore, Harar is said to be the 4th holiest city in Islam. There are 82 mosques there, three of which are from the 10th century. Harar was a location for Islamic learning and a trade center between the coast and interior highlands.

Photo Credit: A.Davey via Flickr


Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba - Togo


Koutammakou is the name of the area in north-eastern Togo that extends to Benin. The region is inhabited by the Batammariba people. The Batammariba people have deep cultural connections with the landscape and relation to the earth. This is evident in their homes, called Takienta’s which have come to be seen as symbols of Togo.


Matobo Hills - Zimbabwe


The Matobo Hills are home to the most rock art in Africa. It is in Southern Zimbabwe and its granite rock formations extend approximately 3000 square kilometers. Rock art is an important way to track human history, as the art dates back more than 100,000 years. The first settlers were the hunter-gatherer San people who it is presumed did the rock art. The hills also still have a religious connection. Followers of the mwari religion use the site and visit it to carry out rainmaking ceremonies and other rituals.


Rock art in Nswatugi Cave, Motobo Hills. Photo Credit:Kate, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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