UNESCO Heritage Sites In East Africa. Crucial site for preservation and conservation

UNESCO Heritage Sites in East Africa: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. World Heritage was adopted in 1972 by UNESCO as a division with a mission to conserve/preserve our legacy, culture and natural resources that we as the current generation can forward to the next generation. East Africa is a place endowed with natural resources and structures of a deep history of our origin story that the UNESCO World Heritage has been preserving;

UNESCO Sites In Uganda

1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Home of last remaining Mountain Gorillas, Bwindi is located in South Western Uganda covering 331km of thick tropical vegetation and housing over 350 bird species and 23 endemics. The forest is very well known for its Afromontane lowland forest landscape and rich biodiversity.

Interconnecting with the Albertine Rift Valley that houses the balance of the Mountain Gorillas in the Virungas (Northern Rwanda) and Mgahinga in the South-Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Bwindi is a blanket of natural phenomena that will have you appreciating the world’s wonders even more.

In March 1994, following a request submitted by the government of Uganda for the inclusion of the Forest under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the IUCN submitted documentation to the heritage committee with the justification of Bwindi being a home for the last species of the Mountain gorillas, the Afromontane vegetation is one of the rarest on the African continent, and following the great effort made by the government to save the forest and make it safe for these threatened animals to have a future. The IUCN recommended that Bwindi National Park be included in the World Heritage list and this was effected in the same year.

Apart from the gorillas, there are over 300 bird species in the forest, over 200 species of butterflies, and other mammals like chimpanzees, forest elephants, forest hogs, monkeys and baboons among others.

2. Kasubi Tombs

This is a burial site for the four kings of the Buganda kingdom and other members of the royal family. It was initially the palace for Kabaka Mutesa I and where he was put to rest after his demise (1984) and since been turned into a final resting place for all following fallen kings (Mwanga II – 1910, Daudi Chwa II – 1939 and Edward Mutesa II – 1969). It holds great significance to the Baganda, spiritually and culturally as evidenced by the frequent Ganda rituals the current Kabaka (King) and his representatives perform from this sacred place.

The Muzibu Azaala Mpanga was rebuilt in 1882 by Kabaka Mutesa I at the Kasubi hilltop, a very unique structure with a round dome that extends to the ground. A lot of the cultural history is embedded in everything at the Kasubi Tombs, for example, the 52 rings of spear grass that support the great roof that represent the 52 clans of the Baganda people.

It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 2001, dubbed the most remarkable building made purely out of indigenous vegetation in the sub-Saharan region.

3. Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Situated in Western Uganda, the Rwenzori Mountains are strategically located in the East African Rift Valley and the 3rd highest mountain (Margherita Peak) in Africa standing over 16,000 feet above sea level. Other peaks within the park include Mount Speke (4th highest) and Mount Baker (5th highest)

The National Park covers almost 1000 sq. km across Kabarole, Kasese and Bundibujo. It is distinctly known for its unique plant life, glaciers, waterfalls, and unique alpine flora with many endemic species to the region like the giant heathers, lobelias and groundsels. The Mountains of the moon are quite a spectacle with snow-capped tip V-shaped valleys and fast-flowing rivers.

The park was gazette in 1991 and included on the World Heritage sites in 1994 but was later closed off in 1997 due to the insecurity caused by the Allied Democratic Force Rebels. The Uganda Wildlife Authority did several renovations and steps to improve security and thus reopened in 2000. Currently, The Rwenzori mountains are one of the best places to go hiking when Visiting Uganda

UNESCO Sites In Kenya

4. Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Following the orders of King Philip I of Portugal, a fort on the Mombasa island was built in 1593-1596 to guard the port of Mombasa and holds a strong sentiment as the first attempt of a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade.

The fort was designed by Giovanni Battista Cairati who used local labour and materials to set up this military architectural legendary masterpiece. It is a great example of an improved kind of fortification and military innovation of weapons and technology in the 15th and 16th centuries.

It became a National Park in 1958, and a UNESCO world heritage site in 2011. The fort is protected by the Kenya National Museums and Heritage Act of 2006. It has managed to retain its form and design, and any repairs where necessary are being done with the same materials originally used to keep its original look.

5. Lake Turkana National Parks

This consists of three National Parks around Lake Turkana, the most saline lake in East Africa and the deepest desert lake in Africa. The lake is the breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippos and several snake species as well as being a stopping point for the migratory birds.

The National parks around the lake are;

a). Sibiloi National Park which is on the northern shores of Lake Turkana. It is very famous for the Australopithecus and early Homo fossils that were discovered in this area. The park also has the Kenya Wildlife Service HQ as well as the Koobi Fora Museum where a few non-humanoid fossils are displayed.

b). South Island National Park on Lake Turkana is the best place to go for bird watching (over 80 species) crocodiles, snakes (cobra, viper among others) fish (Nile perch, tilapia). The glowing luminous vents provide the best view yet of the Turkana that is associated with ill omen by the locals. It is also called the ‘Isle of Mystery’ because of this nightly glow.

c). Central Island National Park which is also known as Crocodile Island because of the great concentration/breeding point for Nile crocodiles. The island is endowed with three volcanoes belching sulphurous smoke.  It is quite a place to watch the waters wash up the black lava covered island, go on boat rides, bird watching and camping.

The Lake Turkana National Park was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.

6. Mount Kenya National Park

Standing at 5,1999 meters, Mount Kenya is the 2nd tallest mountain in Africa, the view from the top ranges from the serene wilderness, lakes, rivers, mineral springs and alpine vegetation among others. To come close to the rarest of natural beauty, Mount Kenya has rugged terrain and houses many wild animals like elephants, buffalos, antelope, forest hogs, and colobus monkeys among others.

7. Lamu Old Town

The best-preserved and oldest Swahili settlement in the coastal strip of East Africa with some of Kenya’s most conservative societies, Lamu Old Town is located on a small island off the coast of Kenya, close to the Somali border. Believed to have been established in 1370, Lamu is believed to be the continually inhabited town of the Swahili.

Lamu town architecture is an amalgamation of African, Indian, Arabic and Persian styles that was constructed using local resources like lime and coral materials. This mostly dates back from 1698 to the mid-1800s what is referred to as the ‘Golden Heritage’ The buildings have been very well preserved and hold a lot of history and culture.

Dubbed the cradle of Swahili civilization, Lamu town became a pertinent religious centre in the whole of East Africa in the 19th Century. Up to now, this town has conserved her culture, beliefs and a fusion of ancient civilization architecture. It was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

8. Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley

Comprising of three interconnected shallow lakes (L. Bogoria, L. Nakuru and L. Elementaita) in the Great Rift Valley, this Lake system covers 32,034 hectares. These breathtaking lakes are nestled in the valley and surrounded by volcanic cones, hot springs and magnificent landscapes. It is the only natural site in Kenya on the UNESCO heritage list

This is a home for a rich number of over 450 bird species like flamingos (up to 4million). Lake Nakuru and Bogoria are well-known National Parks that house diverse wild like leopards, lions, zebras, buffalos and Rothschild giraffes among others. Quite an advantage on the escarpment visit in the background.

Lake Elementaita has an amazing panoramic view of the acacia woodlands, grassy plains and volcanic hills housing the nationally threatened colobus monkeys and Rothschild giraffes. It is part of the Soysambu Conservancy with a great number of white pelicans that use this as a breeding area.  The Kenya Lake system was considered a UNESCO World Heritage site (2011) because of all the natural phenomena engraved in the history and beauty maintained after all these years.

UNESCO Sites In Tanzania

9. Serengeti National Park

A translation from the Maasai language, Serengeti means endless plains. A drive through the park, you are surrounded by plains as far as the eye can see. The Serengeti ecosystem is dotted by zebras and white-bearded wildebeest, badgers and Nile Crocodiles on the shores of Lake Victoria. Other wild animals include elephants, cheetahs, giraffes and lots of birds.

The park which was established in 1952, covers 5,700 sq miles and has a few acacia trees spread out across the endless plains. Serengeti is one of the kind places in Africa with raw nature and unique climate, vegetation fauna that has remained constant for the last million years.

10. Zanzibar’s Stone Town

Chosen for its great cultural significance to the indigenous people, Zanzibar Stone Town is embroidered in typical coastal trading architecture in all of East Africa. Located 50 km from the coast of Tanzania, it attracts people from all over the world to indulge in this stunning beauty, laze away on the Zanzibar white beaches and learn the people’s history and culture.

With her urban and yet a reflection of her culture, the stone town blends African, Indian, Arabic and European cultures in astonishing architecture made from coralline ragstone and mangrove timber, the major buildings are said to have been in existence since the 18th and 19th centuries.

This was chosen because of the unique blend of cultures as well as a great symbol in the conquest of slavery in African coastal towns that were previously used as ports to ship slaves away. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000

11. Mount Kilimanjaro

Undoubtedly the most visited area in the entire country, Mount Kilimanjaro is found in the Kilimanjaro region and Kilimanjaro National Park that overall covers 1,600 sq km of space. Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 5,895m (19,324 feet above sea level), she is the tallest Mountain in Africa 4th in the entire world and the world’s tallest stand-alone mountain.

It was created by volcanic activity over 400,000 years old and used to have three volcanic cones (Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi) Currently only the Kibo volcanic cone is considered dormant and could erupt at any one moment.

The Mount Kilimanjaro National Park was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1987 but it was later expanded in 2005.

12. Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara

An archaeological site for two of the leading ports used in the 13th and 14th-century African coastal trading centres in East Africa dealing in gold, Perfumes, pearls, silver and other precious items.

Around 300km from Dar es Salaam, on two islands, stands the ruins of two of the most prominent trading cities in Africa. Kilwa Kisiwani the bigger port was once described by Ibn Battouta as one of the most beautiful cities in the world boosted by the prosperous Indian Ocean trade with Arabia, India, and China was reaching its heights. This was booming until the late 16th century when the Portuguese established a fort on Kilwa Kisiwani with which her downfall began

Currently, the ruins include a mosque, a palace built by Husuni Kubwa in 1310, the Gereza Prison and urban complex. It was added to the UNESCO list in 1981

13. Selous Game Reserve

At 50,000 sq km, this Selous is one of the largest Game reserves in the world. This massive land provides home for all sorts of land animals like black rhinos, Zebras, Masai Giraffes, Cape Buffaloes, elephants and Cheetahs among others. The reserve ranges from dense bushes to open woodlands to accommodate the different kinds of animals that reside within.

It was selected to be on the UNESCO site in 1982 on the basis that it was one of the largest remaining wildernesses in Africa and broad diversity of species.

14. Ngorongoro Conservation area

The Crater Highlands of Tanzania holds one of the most treasured wonders of nature. The Ngorongoro has a deep volcanic crater, which is the largest unflooded caldera in the entire world. Spanning 20 km, it goes 600m deep and is surrounded by lush green vegetation perfect for that scenic picnic in the world.

Ngorongoro Conservation is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority which is part of the Tanzanian government. The area is home to the Big 5, elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, and rhinos close to 15,000 animals. It is also known for the herds of wildebeest and Zebras that annually migrate through the plains. It was added in 1979.

UNESCO Sites In Rwanda

15. Genocide Memorial sites

a). Nyamata

This was initially a catholic church built in 1980. During the Rwanda genocide of 1994, approximately 25,000 people used this church as a shelter and place for solace but still were attacked by grenades thrown through holes made in the walls of the church. Any survivors who were shot or killed by machete.

Located about 36 km from Kigali, Nyamata is in the Bugesera region in Rwanda and as of now stands as a representation of the pain and agony that was caused by the genocide through mass killings, rape and brutality. In remembrance of the innocents lost, this church is kept sacred and allows visitors from all over the world to visit and share in this piece of the story.

b). Murambi

Formerly a technical school and now a site of one of the most brutal attacks on the Tutsi people, Murambi was used to lure over 40,000 people into a trap that led to them losing their lives. On April 21st, 1994, after having been kept prisoner with no food and water, they could not protect themselves anymore and were all defeated and killed.

As of today, the 21st of April is still commemorated in remembrance of the tragedy that befell the good people of Rwanda on this day.  The school building is used as a museum with skeletons and mummified bodies including those collected from the surrounding areas.

c). Bisesero

Just 60 km from Kibuye, Rwanda at Muyira Hill, lies one of the genocide sites where 40,000 people were massacred. Originally, they had come seeking assistance from the French troops but who later retrieved because they did not have any mandate to engage in the fight. This left the Tutsis who had come for sanctuary defenceless against their perpetrator.

d). Gisozi

Also known as the Kigali Genocide memorial, this site is used to commemorate over 150,000 people that were killed during the Rwanda Genocide. It is the largest site of all the genocide sites and includes an exhibition that traces Rwandan History from its formation in the 11th century.

These sites were chosen as a symbol of man’s ability to tolerate even the harshest of conditions and still stay and build as one strong people and country and hopefully as a way to combat any future genocide attempts against humanity.

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