When it comes to Africa as a holiday destination, one is bound to think of the scenic seascape of Cape Good Hope and the wildlife reserves of Kenya. Or if one wanted to dig a little into history, they would boast of walking the colonial streets of Morocco or safely choose the good old pyramids of Egypt. But Africa is a big continent with a much bigger history. And the scrolls of history just don’t end at its long colonial past of slavery and plunder; they go back to the time civilisation started. Here are some sites of great historical relevance you might not have heard of.
Dinosaur Footprints, Lesotho
Them and us
If you are as fascinated by dinosaurs as Ross Geller from Friends was, and earnestly wished that a few harmless ones still existed, this is the closest you can get to experiencing the sheer enormousness these creatures boasted of. The town of Lesotho is peppered with dinosaur footprints, yes real dinos left them there. An ideal place to go dino spotting would be the village of Roma, where there are a few footprints to be found at the top of a mountain. Trek to the land where dinos walked, and put yourself in their shoes. From atop the mountain, you also get to enjoy a sweeping view of the countryside. What better way to boast of having seen in flesh and blood what others only see in museums (yeah, they can only peer at the bones and hair).
El Jem Amphitheatre, Tunisia
The massive El Jem Amphitheatre
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the El Jem Amphitheatre in Tunisia is a magnificent though obscure symbol of the Roman Empire’s grandeur. Built by Emperor Gordian between 230 and 238 AD, the amphitheatre could originally accommodate around 35,000 spectators, and till today stands as the third largest surviving structure of its kind, despite the years of ruin and invasion of North Africa. The likeness with the Colosseum in Rome cannot be missed. The only hitch is that not much tourism has developed in the silent town of El Jem, and you might have to make a little extra effort to catch the few organised tours to the amphit
Rock-hewn Churches, Ethiopia
Into the earth
These monolithic rock-cut churches, in the town of Lalibela in Ethiopia, carved into the stone of monolithic blocks, are a remarkable example of engineering and architectural feat. Built by King Lalibela in the 12th century as part of his plan to construct a New Jerusalem, the structures were painstaking
ly implemented with an extensive drainage system, trenches and ceremonial passages. Today, the town of Lalibela is one of the holiest cities of Ethiopia and is an important pilgrimage centre for the country’s Christian population.
Ruins of Carthage, Tunisia
A lost civilisation: Carthage
Located alongside the Mediterranean coast, Carthage, a suburb of Tunisia, has seen much history a la the Roman occupation and Punic wars. The city houses numerous ruins of ancient Roman structures. Visit the Acropolium, the cathedral-cum-museum which holds most of the excavations from the Punic and Roman eras. The site is also a tourist spot owing to its panoramic view of the coast and city. The International Festival of Carthage that is held during summers attracts dancers, singers and artists from across the world, and should not be missed if you are visiting the city. The Antonin Baths, ruins of Roman baths, is also an interesting site to visit. And it’s exciting to think that the beautiful queen of Carthage, Dido, might have once bathed here (we don’t know if she did, but no harm in thinking).