Africa is the cradle of civilisation, and there are some amazing cultural attractions on this huge continent for travellers to explore. Let’s look at 5 of the very best!
5. The Skeleton Coast is the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia and the Bushmen of the Namibian interior call the region “The Land God Made in Anger”, while Portuguese sailors once referred to it as “The Gates of Hell”. This is because of the amount of ships and sailing vessels that end up washed ashore on the coast due to torrential tides and winds offshore on the west of Africa. On the coast the upwelling of the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs (called “cassimbo” by the Angolans) for much of the year. The winds blow from land to sea, rainfall rarely exceeds 10mm annually and the climate is highly inhospitable. There is a constant, heavy surf on the beaches, which can be an attraction for tourists. The coast is largely soft sand occasionally interrupted by rocky outcrops. The southern section consists of gravel plains while north of Terrace Bay the landscape is dominated by high sand dunes. Skeleton Bay is also known as one of the best places in the world to view the rhino on foot!
4. Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia famous for its monolithic rock-cut churches. It is also one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and a centre of pilgrimage. The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. This rural town is known around the world for its churches carved from within the earth from living rock, which play an important part in the history of rock-cut architecture. Though the dating of the churches is not well established, most are thought to have been built during the reign of Lalibela, namely during the 12th and 13th centuries. Lalibela is truly one of Africa’s best cultural attractions and the most visited part of Ethiopia outside of Addis Ababa!
3. The Avenue of the Baobabs is a prominent group of baobab trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region in western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws travellers from around the world, making it one of the most visited locations in the region. The baobab trees, up to 800 years old, known locally as “renala” (Malagasy for “mother of the forest”), are a legacy of the dense tropical forests that once thrived on Madagascar. The trees did not originally tower in isolation over the sere landscape of scrub but stood in dense forest. Over the years, as the country’s population grew, the forests were cleared for agriculture, leaving only the baobab trees, which the locals preserved as much in respect as for their value as a food source and building material.
2. Mount Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, is a dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341ft above sea level. Mount Kilimanjaro is known as “the Roof of Africa” and many people attempt to the climb it on its many ascent pathways. Of about 20,000 people who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year, one third do not reach the summit, usually due to altitude sickness. Most suffer mild symptoms, but officially there are a few deaths annually. Part of the larger Kilimanjaro National Park, the mountain is known for its difference in climate at various stages of the ascent, with the roof of Kilimanjaro itself being coated and in ice – and it has been this way since the last ice age!
1. Timbuktu is a city in the West African nation of Mali situated 20km north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. In its Golden Age, the town’s numerous Islamic scholars and extensive trading network created a place of important markets and dignified citizens, with the famous “mud” buildings of Timbuktu giving the area a great reputation. Yet despite its illustrious history, modern-day Timbuktu is an impoverished town, poor even by Third World standards, and is continuously under the control of local militia. All tourism is discouraged to Timbuktu, and the kidnapping and murder of tourists in the area is not uncommon. Other current issues in Timbuktu include dealing with both droughts and floods, the latter caused by an insufficient drainage system that fails to transport direct rainwater from the city centre. For tourists, Timbuktu remains very much off the radar, as it is not a safe place to visit – and this may unfortunately remain the case for our entire lifetimes.
Have you explored Africa? Do you suggest any other cultural attractions to add to my list?