Best historical sites in Africa

Posted on 24 June 2020

For our 30th birthday, we set off across the continent to find out more about the 30 best holidays in Africa. Here are Getaway‘s top three holiday destinations for history boffs who are dreaming of a holiday filled with ancient mystique and wonder…

1. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

by Justin Fox

A humped taxi waits for customers at Giza. Image: Justin Fox.

‘It was sunset in midwinter Cairo. The city of 23 million souls was the colour of the desert, its skyline pricked with countless minarets. We threaded our way through apocalyptic traffic, across a mercury Nile, through avenues of Soviet-style high-rises and into Giza, the ancient realm of the dead. Turning a corner, they were suddenly before us. Incongruous, overpowering. Three monstrous triangles of stone.’

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2. Great Zimbabwe

by Michelle Hardie

The 80-hectare central site comprises the Hill Complex, the Valley Ruins and Great Enclosure. Gallo/Getty Images.

If you are fascinated by enigmas, a visit to Great Zimbabwe ruins will thrill you. The place exudes mystery, as much about the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara is unknown. What is certain, though, is that the site displays ‘architecture that is unparalleled elsewhere in Africa’, according to archaeologist and historian Peter Garlake, whose research proved, once and for all, that the granite dwellings were African and built by ancestors of the Shona people.

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3. Lalibela, Ethiopia

by Justin Fox

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary (who is deeply venerated in Ethiopia), Bet Maryam Church has a constant stream of pilgrims entering its hallowed space. Image supplied.

‘Our Land Rover ate the kilometres over endless mountain passes north of Addis Ababa. The earth opened in chasms on either side; millet and wheat fields pimpled with haystacks filled the valleys below.’

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This post is adapted from an article first published in the April 2019 issue of Getaway magazine.

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