African treasures: 10 landmarks you may not know about

Posted on 22 March 2017

Many of us travel to see iconic landmarks around the world – the Eiffel Tower, or the Grand Canyon – but there are many amazing sites of natural beauty and cultural importance on our own continent that don’t get enough attention.

Landmarks can either be a prominent object on land that serves as a guide, or a site of aesthetic or historical significance. Here’s my list of some of the remarkable landmarks in Africa – both environmental and historical – that are remarkable and should be impressing the world with their untold stories. What would you add?


1. Taiwo Olowo’s Monument, Nigeria

Daniel Conrad Taiwo was known as a man who rose to influence, from being a man of humble beginnings to one of the most successful men in Nigeria. He arrived in 1848 to be a successful trader, community leader and philanthropist. The monument was built in his honour in 1990. The monument is situated in Central Square Lagos between Mandila and Continental House. Visitors are more than welcome to view the monument.

The plague is made out of copper pennies that are melted. Image by Lolade Adewuyi

The plague is made out of melted copper pennies. Image by Lolade Adewuyi


2. Leptis Magna, Libya

Affectionately known as Libya’s ‘Little piece of Rome’, the ruins date back to the age of Emperor Septimus Severus (end of the second century A.D) when the Roman Empire also included areas of North Africa. Leptis Magna was one of the Empire’s most beautiful cities and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The amphitheatre, columns and sculpted medusa heads are some of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Europe.

Views of the blue Mediterranean sea can be seen from the Leptis Magna. Image by Chris Combe


3. Satyagraha House, South Africa

Gandhi spent 21 years of his life in South Africa, where his philosophy was shaped by his experiences of racial oppression. Satyagraha House in Johannesburg is where Gandhi and architect Herman Kallenbach lived from 1908-1909. The house is in the style of an African Kraal with rondavels (round African dwelling with thatched roof). The house was built in 1907. There is no entrance fee to view the house, but guests may stay overnight. Bookings are advised.

Gandhi stayed in the house from 1908 to 1909. Image by Ems Cooper


4. City of Castles- Gondar, Ethiopia

You probably didn’t know that Africa has castles too! Gondar City in Ethiopia holds the remains of royal castles from the 1600s, from the reign of King Fasilides. After his death, other kings continued building until it became a large royal court with over twenty palaces and thirty churches, surrounded by a 900 metre long battle wall.

Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855. Image by A.Davey


5. Aloba Arch, Chad

Considered the 4th largest known natural arch in the world, the Aloba Arch is in Chad. It’s 120 metres high and 77 metres wide. The arch, in the Ennedi Range of the Saharan desert, was carved from sandstone over many years of erosion and is the largest natural arch outside of the United States.

Image supplied by David Stanley


6. Church of Saint Emmanuel, Ethiopia

One of the most astonishing man made sites in Africa has to be the Church of Emmanuel in Lalibela, Ethiopia. The church is also the former royal chapel and was carved out of a red solid volcanic rock. Beite Amanuel, as it is known by locals, remains a place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox Churches today.

The former Royal chapel of the church of Emmanuel. Image from Wikimedia


7. Isandlwana Zulu Memorial, South Africa

A little bit closer to home along the R68 between Melmoth in the East and Babanango in KwaZulu-Natal is where 20000 Zulus attacked British Soldiers in 1879. There is an entrance fee to access the battlefield and tours are available.

South Africa has many iconic monuments such as the above Isandlwana Zulu Memorial. Image by Rob


8. Kunta Kinteh Island, Gambia

The Kunta Kinteh Island is on the Gambia River. Formerly known as James Island, it was visited by explorers when they were searching for sea routes to India in the 1800s. It then became popular through the book and series by Alex Haley ‘Roots’. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 6 February 2011, the island used to be a cultural exchange zone between Africa and Europe.

A historical site in the West Africa Slave Trade, the island is now listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Image by Tjeerd Wiersma


9. African Renaissance Monument, Senegal

The man with a ripped torso stands strong holding an infant with the one hand and a woman on the other. First revealed on the 4 April 2010, the 160 metre high bronze statue on a hill in Dakar was designed by Senegalese architecture Pierre Goudiaby Alepa. The statue is one and a half times the height of the Statue of Liberty. The idea of the statue was proposed by then President Abdoulaye Wade and many were against the construction of the statue as it caused a financial scandal during the economic crisis. Fortunately for you, it still remains to be viewed and admired.

The bronze statue is 49m tall was designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. Image by Jeff Attaway


10. Zuma Rock, Nigeria

One of Nigeria’s most iconic natural wonders, based 45 minutes out of Nigeria’s capital Abuja is the Zuma Rock. The circumference of the rock is 3.1 kilometres with a height of 1125 metres. Rumour has it, a human’s face lies on the side of the rock with a visible nose, mouth and eyes. Tourists summit the rock and it takes about five hours to get to the top, to give you glorious 360 degree views.

The rock is not named after our president Jacob Zuma but is believed to have magical powers. Image by Dolapo Falola


11. Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon

South Africa has rare findings everywhere you turn and the Mpumalanga province is no exception. A 700 metre walk from the start of the Blyde River Canyon and you will find this bizarre natural water feature. The potholes were created by rough water coming into the canyon. The potholes were named after a gold digger named Tom Bourke.

Art in its purest form. Image by Allan Watt


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