The African continent is the cradle of mankind. Thousands of years ago a group of people started to build their own places and invented different ways of living and hunting, which enabled them to adapt with nature. This first civilization then moved northward where it improved its methodologies and moved to other places on earth.
In recognizing the contribution of Africa to world heritage and history, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization “UNESCO” in its 38th session proclaimed November 16th 2015 as the “African World Heritage Day”. This was an opportunity for people around the world and Africans in particular to celebrate the continent’s precious cultural and natural heritage and get to know the source of African wealth and inspiration.
World Heritage Sites Background:
In 1972 a convention to protect World Heritage was held in Santiago de Chile, since then many countries joined the convention and recognized World Heritage Sites as common human heritage and beyond all boundaries.
The UNESCO in its report “World Heritage Atlas 2016- 2017” says that it works with countries around the world to identify and protect cultural and natural places that merit recognition as common heritage of humankind. UNESCO adopted the convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1972. Since then, 192 countries have ratified the treaty, and at present 1073 properties are inscribed on the list- 832 of which are cultural, 206 natural and 35 mixed (a combination of the two)(1).
Because of conflicts and natural disaster 55 properties (Cultural & Natural) are inscribed as in danger. Those sites are in Afghanistan, Bolivia, United States of America, Iraq, Yemen and many places on earth where danger abounds. Although serious efforts have been undertaken to help protect those sites either from natural disasters or from humans (wars), some are lost due to unstoppable circumstances. For example, the Taliban in 2001 destroyed Buddha statues in Bamiyan(2); two statues were recognized as part of the World Heritage Sites and their history goes back 1500 years. The same thing was done by the Islamic State since it started in late 2014 when it destroyed the Northwest Palace in Nimrud (Iraq), and archeological items in Syria, claiming those things belong to pagans and Islam came to fight such idols. Protecting Heritage Sites has always been a common responsibility because it they are our collective human heritage, it doesn’t just belong to one ethnic or religious group as extremists might think.
World Heritage Sites in East & Central Africa:
Most countries on the African continent have listed properties inscribed in the World Heritage Sites list, starting from 1974- 2017. This piece will shed a light on some regional countries (East & Central Africa) and their properties plus years of recognition.
- Central African Republic 1980
1) Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
2) Sangha Trinational (Transnational Property. Shared with Cameroon & the Congo “Brazzaville”)
- Chad 1999
1) Lakes of Ounianga “Natural Property”
2) Ennedi Massif: Natural and Cultural Landscape “Mixed Property”
- Democratic Republic of the Congo 1974
1) Virunga National Park “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
2) Garamba National Park “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
3) Kahuzi- Biega National Park “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
4) Salonga National Park “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
5) Okapi Wildlife Reserve “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
- Egypt 1974
1) Memphis and its Necropolis- and Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur “Cultural Property”
2) Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis “Cultural Property”
3) Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae “Cultural Property”
4) Historic Cairo “Cultural Property”
5) Abu Mena “Cultural Property” (is in Danger)
6) Saint Catherine Area “Cultural Property”
7) Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) “Natural Property”
- Eritrea 2001
- Historic Asmara added in 2017 “Cultural Property”
- Ethiopia 1977
1) Simien National Park “Natural Property” (is in Danger)
2) Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela “Cultural Property”
3) Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region “Cultural Property”
4) Lower Valley of the Awash “Cultural Property”
5) Tiya “Cultural Property”
6) Aksum “Cultural Property”
7) Lower Valley of the Omo “Cultural Property”
8) Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town “Cultural Property”
9) Konso Cultural Landscape “Cultural Property”
- Kenya 1991
- Mount Kenya National Park/ Natural Forest “Natural Property”
- Lake Turkana National Parks “Natural Property”
- Lamu Old Town “Cultural Property”
- Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests “Cultural Property”
- Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley “Natural Property”
- Fort Jesus, Mombasa “Cultural Property”
- South Sudan 2017 (not inscribed yet)
On October 4th 2017 three sites were put into a tentative list and are to be inscribed into the World Heritage Sites in the near future.
- Boma- Badingilo Migratory Landscape (Contiguous site)
- Dem Zubier- Slave route site “Cultural Property”
- Sudd wetland “Natural Property”(3)
- Sudan 1974
- Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Nabatan Region “Cultural Property”
- Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe “Cultural Property”
- Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay-Mukkawar Island Marine National Park “Natural Property”
- Uganda 1987
- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park “Natural Property”
- Rwenzori Mountains National Park “Natural Property”
- Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi “Cultural Property” (is in Danger).
The aforementioned sites and others in different parts of the continent are highly recommended for visits and sightseeing for those who want to enjoy and know the culture and natural wealth of African nations. Those sites and more across the continent tell us about the power and beauty of Mother Nature. They show the inspiration of our ancestors in creating civilizations before and after Christ. The sites also teach us about the creativity of the hardworking people who made themselves immortal by their establishments and buildings that we continue to reap benefit from in many ways until today.
This post is also available in: Arabic