UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
As at July 2015, there are 1,031 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world with Italy having the highest number of sites - 51.
In Africa, there are 135 sites across 37 different countries, with the highest number equally shared between Ethiopia and Morocco at nine sites each.
If you're a lover of culture, anthropology and history looking to visit sites that have significant historical and cultural significance, here is a list of five UNESCO World Heritage sites you should visit in Africa.
1. Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves, Niger Republic:
This is the largest protected area in Africa and the fourth largest in the world; a natural nature reserve located in the Saharan desert of Ténéré and the Air Mountains.
BirdLife International recognizes it as an important bird area. The reserve is blessed with unique flora and fauna, plant species and wild animals.
In 1999 it was considered for delisting because of increased military conflicts and the six reserve staff taken as hostage in 1992. However, it still stands as a World Heritage Site.
2. Banc d'Arguin National Park, Mauritania:
This site serves as an important breeding site for migratory birds such as flamingos, terns and pelicans. The region has a mild climate and minimal human disturbance.
Over a 100 species of birds have been recorded at the park. Its numerous mudflats are home to about 2 million migratory birds.
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3. Cidade Velha, Historic Centre of Ribeira Grande, Cape Verde:
Cidade Velha means old city in Portuguese, the site is the oldest settlement in Cape Verde, and it is also a former capital of the country.
The settlement was a major port for transporting slaves between Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone and Brazil and the Caribbean, making it the second richest Portuguese city.
The oldest colonial church in the world - Nossa Senhora do Rosário church, constructed in 1493 – 1495 is located in Cidade Velha.
4. Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata, Mauritania:
This site is a medieval trading center established in the 13 Century as the center of Saharan trade routes to serve caravans crossing the Sahara.
The trade and religion center went on to become focal points of Islamic culture. For many centuries, it was the major meeting point for Maghreb pilgrims on their way to Mecca.
It was a holy city of sorts, especially for pilgrims who could not make the journey to Saudi Arabia. The schools of Chinguetti taught law, rhetoric, mathematics, medicine and astronomy, in addition to their islanic syllabus, making it the center for Islamic and scientific scholarship in West Africa.
5. Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes, Senegal:
This is a well-preserved multicultural landscape is a dry deciduous woodland to the north of the Fouta Djallon that developed from human interaction with the natural environment.
It is a designated cultural landscape that shows how three culturally distinct groups of people have adapted to the natural environment.
The groups arrived and established settlement within the hills at different times between the 1200’s and the 1800’s.