Places You Never Knew Existed in Africa
Thankfully, in today’s world of fast-paced information and lightning connectivity, we now have access to places we wouldn’t ordinarily have access to, through channels like Google and YouTube. Contrary however to our feelings of omniscience, there will always be gaps in our knowledge banks that need filling from time to time.
Let’s start with places in Africa we never knew still existed.
Aksum, one of the earliest African civilisations still surviving today. Located in present-day Eritrea and Ethiopia, she was founded by the Aksumite people and existed from around 100 AD to 940 AD. Aksum was a fully developed state and was once regarded by a Persian prophet (Mani) as one of the four great world powers of the ancient world including Persia, Rome, and China.
Aksum continues to survive via relics such as stelae (stone monuments) found in both Eritrea and Ethiopia, as well as historical ruins such as the Dungur Palace and the Tomb of the False Door.
University of Timbuktu
The world’s first and oldest university, The University of Timbuktu as it was then called was an umbrella term denoting the centres of learning which included the mosques in Sankore, Djinguereber, and Sidi Yahya. Though not the same as modern tertiary institutions, a similarity it shared with them is that a broad range of subjects was taught there. Its manuscripts and texts, which have endured, are currently undergoing preservation and translation. The remains of this ancient structure can be found in the West African nation of Mali.
Oldupai Gorge or Olduvai Gorge is known as the “Cradle of Mankind” and for originating from Africa. It is located in present day Tanzania and has spewed many archaeological treasures over the years.
A little-known city established by old Romanians sits 33km north of Meknes, in Morocco. Widely regarded as the seat of the ancient kingdom of Mauretania, Volubilis was erected in classical Roman archaeological fashion, complete with a basilica, temple, and triumphal arch. All that remains presently of Volubilis are its excavated ruins, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Located in modern day Tunisia and founded by Phoenician Queen, Elissa around 813 BCE, Carthage is reputed to have shared history with the first European civilisations including Greece and Rome. Rising to great power and affluence, her history was nevertheless chequered and fraught with many wars, especially with the Roman Empire, to which posed the most threat. The ruins of Carthage continue to exist and are a favourite point of interest for archaeologists and tourists.
If you thought the only pyramids in Africa were in Egypt, you couldn’t be more wrong. Though smaller than the Egyptians, the Meroe pyramids number about 200 and are found in the desert of eastern Sudan. They are remnants of the ancient Meroitic Kingdom, which had strong cultural ties with ancient Egypt and lasted about 900 years. Today, they serve as tourist attractions.
Also called the Bomvu Ridge or Lion cavern, the Ngwenya Mine is perhaps the world’s oldest Mine. Located near the northwestern border of Swaziland around the Ngwenya Mountains, it continues to be the scene of large-scale iron ore mining. According to archaeologists, the haematite ore deposit was used in the Middle Stone Age to extract red ochre, while in later times the deposit was mined for iron smelting and iron ore export. These mineral deposits once extracted were used by prehistoric men in cosmetics and rock painting.