While the continent’s diverse and unique wildlife is often all that is mentioned in regards to African travel, as home to the oldest civilizations on the planet, Africa has equally impressive cultures and history. The most famous civilization on the continent, and arguably in the world, is that of ancient Egypt. From the southern city of Abu Simbel to Luxor and all the way north to Alexandria and Cairo, including the Pyramids of Giza, the only surviving of the original Seven Wonders of the World and the most iconic symbols of this ancient kingdom. Sites from the Nubian-Kushite Kingdom that broke away from Egypt can be found in Sudan, such as Gebel Barkal and many other pyramids in Meroe.
Ethiopia offers many ruins from the ancient Axumite Kingdom where the Queen of Sheba ruled. The obelisks and Dungur ruins in Axum were built prior to the kingdom’s conversion to Christianity, while many other great monuments, such as the Ezana Stone and the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, where the Arc of the Covenant is said to be stored, were built after the conversion as religious sites. Other famous Christian structures built later by the kingdom’s successor, the Abyssinian Empire, especially during the 12th and 13th centuries, can also be found in Lalibela.
In West Africa, structures from the ancient Mali Empire can be found in Timbuktu and Djenne. Although there are Islamic influences, the architectural style of the Malian Kingdom’s mosques are still quite unique and recognizably African. The cliff dwellings in Mali’s Dogon Country, built by the Dogon people, are also impressive ancient structures in Mali. Often overshadowed by Africa’s other monuments, Sungbo’s Eredo in Ijebu Ode, Nigeria, built by the Yoruba people, is actually the largest pre-colonial structure remaining on the continent. Today it towers over the city, covered in vegetation.
Ruins from the ancient Swahili culture can be found in the coastal areas of East Africa, particularly in Kenya and Tanzania. The Swahili structures combines elements of African architecture with Islamic architecture, which was quite prominent around the 14th century. Some of the most famous Swahili structures include the Gedi Ruins and Pillar Tombs around Malindi and Kilwa Kisiwani. Zanzibar’s Stone Town features Swahili structures spanning hundreds of years from its early days to the 18th century.
In Southern Africa, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe have fascinated visitors ever since Europeans discovered them. No one had believed that the inhabitants of black Africa were capable of creating any great monuments on their own until the ruins of this ancient culture were discovered.
Roman structures are scattered throughout North Africa, with the ancient city of Carthage being the most well-known abroad. Many cities, such as Leptis Magna, Timgad, and Dougga feature Roman ruins as impressive as those in Europe itself. Many other European structures can be found throughout the continent, dating back to the earliest days of imperialism.