10 Historical Sites to Visit in Africa

Fort Jesus, Kenya

Fort Jesus was a Portuguese fort built in 1593 on Mombasa Island. It was built to secure the safety of the Portuguese living on the East Coast of Africa, and it experienced more turbulence than any other fort in Africa due to the hostilities of interested parties that lived in Mombasa. It was attacked by the Omani Arabs from 1696 to 1698, and was used as barracks for soldiers and a prison by the British between 1837 and 1895. The fort was designed by an Italian architect and engineer, Joao Batista Cairato. It became a museum in 1962, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre for its historical reflection of the Renaissance period and its documentation of the military innovations of the 15th and 16th centuries. The museum is open daily from 8am to 6pm, and entry fees range from $0.99 to $12.

Mamuno Monument (Kangumene Rock Engravings), Botswana

Outside of visiting the Okavango Delta, which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and the home of a variety of wildlife, the Kangumene Rock Engravings showcase the country’s rich cultural history with a variety of rock paintings from the Khoisan communities that inhabited the area. Engravings that visitors can see include animal and human footprints, handprints, geometric designs and weapons. The art found at the Mamuno sites is distinct from the Shamanistic form found in eastern Botswana, and the art has similar grooves to those created from sharpening knives and spears found at Olifanskloof Farm. The Kangumene Rock Engravings are located at the Ghanzi District, approximately 5 kilometres northwest of the Mamuno border post. Tours can be booked through travel agents.

Larabanga Mosque, Ghana

The Larabanga Mosque is a historical site in the Islamic town of Larabanga in the Western Gonja District in the Northern Region. According to stories told about the origination of the mosque, it is believed that it was built by an Islamic trader named Ayuba in 1421. It is believed that the foundation of the mosque mysteriously appeared, giving way for Ayuba to complete the construction. The mosque also houses a very old Koran, which is believed to have been delivered from heaven to an Imam called Bramah in the 1600s after he had prayed persistently for it. The mosque is built primarily from packed earth, and its design follows the Sudanic architectural building design characterized by two pyramidal towers, the minaret and the mihrab. Conservation efforts in the 1970s proved ineffective as the structure of the mosque was affected by rotting timber and termites, and damage from wind and rain hastened the collapse of the mosque’s minaret. This led to the mosque being included on the 2002 World Monuments Watch, earning it much needed restorative repair. The official viewing fee for the mosque is $0.26 and visitations can be arranged through travel agents.

Telouet Kasbah, Morocco

The Kasbah of Telouet is a historical and popular tourist destination located on the old caravan route towards Ouzarzate and the Sahara just outside Marrakech. The Kasbah was home to the governor of Marrakech, T’hami el Glaoui and his family, in the early 20th century. The Kasbah looks out to the Imarene River, and visitors are able to walk through a number of beautifully decorated rooms, including the harem and the reception hall which are decorated in the Andalusian style of interior design. The Kasbah was never completed, and some parts of the building are deteriorating. Tour guides are available to take visitors around the Kasbah while sharing some history of the family and the era at a cost of $2. Visitations can be booked through a travel agent.

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop is Namibia’s most famous ghost town that is located situated a few kilometres from Luderitz. The town was in existence for 40 years in the early 1900s, and flourished as a result of the diamond boom experienced at the time. It was a bustling city for people working in the diamond trade, and was considered as a haven in the harsh Namib Desert. The development of Kolmanskop reached its pinnacle in the 1920’s, but the town declined after World War 1 when diamond prices crashed, sending inhabitants further south to Oranjemund. Visitors to the ghost town can join a guided tour or take a self-drive to Kolmanskop, and a permit is needed by visitors before the tour. Visitation hours are Mondays to Saturdays between 09h30 and 11h00 and Sundays and public holidays between 09h30 and 10h00, and can be booked though tour agents.

Pemba, Mozambique

Pemba is the capital city of the city of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique that is home to pristine white beaches that are a haven for avid snorkelers and water sports lovers. Popular sites include the slave trade fort at the Ponta Romero Lighthouse, which is a historical monument where slaves were traded and the Quirimbas Archipelago, which has over 30 coral islands stretching from Pemba to the Rovuma River. The area has never been developed and remains an unexplored tourist paradise, and it also houses the Quirimbas National Park, which is a conservation effort to preserve and protect the area. A rich cultural history can be seen on the Quirimbas, where Arabic, Portuguese and African influences can be seen. Visitors can get to Pemba via daily flights from Maputo at a cost starting from $356.

Isimila Stone Age site, Tanzania

The Isimila Stone Age Site is a historically rich archeological site that is located outside of the town of Iringa. Archaeologists have found tools, stone artifacts and bones in a dry bed that was once a shallow lake from what they believe were from the early hominoids that occupied the area. The site preserves artifacts that give a glimpse on the lives and activities of early human and animal civilization, and has beautiful granite rock relieves. A walk through the canons can be booked via a travel agency, and a tour will consist of a brief introduction to the formation of the site and an overview of the fossils and tools displayed before going on a scenic walk through the canyon. The tour takes about 3 hours, and it usually starts early in the morning before temperatures start to soar. Tours can be booked through a travel agency.

Robben Island, South Africa

Robben Island is a small island located in South Africa’s Table Bay in Cape Town. The island was used as a place of imprisonment, banishment, and isolation for about four centuries, and is significantly known for housing South Africa’s anti-apartheid stalwarts such as former President Nelson Mandela. Before then, the island was home to a variety of wild life, including birds, penguins, seals and tortoises. Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz explored the island in 1488 when he anchored his ship in Table Bay, and was also used by visiting ships as a place of replenishing water and food supplies. The island’s name ‘Robben’ is derived from Dutch and it means ‘seal’ as the island had an abundance of seals. From 1671, the Dutch began using the island as a prison, an asylum for the mentally ill and military hub, housing criminals, metally ill patients including social outcasts and individuals who disagreed with Dutch rule. UNESCO declared the island as a World Heritage Site because it is a remainder of the country’s history and the triumph of the human spirit against injustice and apartheid. Tours to Robben Island run from Monday to Sunday, with ferries to the island departing from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town at 9am, 11am and 1pm. Tours take approximately 3 hours to complete, and costs range from $12 to $21 per person.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial, Rwanda

The Kigali Genocide Memorial located in in Gisozi just a few minutes’ drive from Kigali, is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It honours the memory of those who lost their lives in 1994 Rwandan genocide through education and peace-building. The memorial has three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which documents the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. There is also a children’s memorial and an exhibition on the history of genocidal violence around the world. Many of the tour guides that take visitors through the memorial are survivors of the attacks. Guided tours can be booked online and prices range from $100 to $150 per group of people, and visitors can take photos and video inside the memorial for a price of $20. Audio tours are also available; prices range from $5 to $15. Groups of visitors can range from 4 people to 25 people.

Beit al-Ajaib; The House of Wonders Museum, Zanzibar

The Beit al-Ajaib, also known as the House of Wonders, is one of Zanzibar’s best known historical landmarks located at the waterfront area of Zanzibar Town. The palace was built in 1883 for Sultan Barghash on the site of an older palace used by Queen Fatuma, the Mwinyi Mkuu (ruler of Zanzibar) in the 17th century. It was the first building on Zanzibar to be installed with electric lighting, and one of the first in east Africa to have an electric lift, earning the ‘house of wonders’ name by the locals. Since then, it has survived destruction from bombardment in the 1800s due to a failed political coup and was used by the British and the Tanzanian government as political headquarters. It has since been converted into a museum, where visitors learn about Zanzibar’s rich history and culture as well as about the history of the entire Swahili Coast, which extends from Southern Somalia to Northern Mozambique. Entrance into the museum costs $3 and photography inside the museum is permitted. Visitations can be booked through a travel agency.

We are committed to Africa

Unlike many global publications, for nearly a decade we have been committed to showing a complete picture of Africa – not just a single story.  Offended by one-sided coverage of wars, disasters and disease, the founders of Africa.com created a website that provides a balanced view of Africa – current events, business, arts & culture, travel, fashion, sports, information, development, and more.

Will you support us?