Even if Africa is the second largest continent in both population and area after Asia and has some of the most picturesque landscapes and unique wildlife in the world, it is one of the least visited tourist destinations.This, of course, is by no accident, knowing exactly how unstable the continent is, with all its civil wars, famine and deadly diseases, but nevertheless, many places on this stunning piece of land are safe to visit and you should totally do so. Here are 10 stunning African cities which will definitely take your breath away.
10. Alexandria – Egypt
The second largest city in Egypt after Cairo, Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great back in 331 BC. It was the capital of the country for nearly 1000 years and has seen its heyday during the reign of Cleopatra. Alexandria was also famous around the world for its Lighthouse, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, its Library, which was the largest of ancient times, and the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, part of the Seven Wonder of the Middle Ages.
Situated some 225 milometers away from Cairo, this once mighty city has a mild Mediterranean climate, as compared to the rest of the country and is situated at the edge of the Nile Delta. Even if parts of the ancient Egyptian city is now underwater, many vestiges still remain as testament of the country’s glorious past.
9. Algiers – Algeria
First built by the Phoenicians around 300 BC, Algiers later fell into the hands of the Romans and was the capital of the Mauretania Caesariensis province or more commonly known as Numidia. With the end of the Roman Empire the region fell under a series of barbaric invasions like the Vandals and remained in obscurity until the arrival of the Berbers around the 9th century AD. When under Ottoman dominion, Algiers was a central hub for piracy and slave trade predominantly from Southern and West Europe. So much so that many coastal settlements from Italy, France, Spain and Portugal were deserted up until the 18th century.
In 1830 the country was invaded by France in order to stop these attacks and became part of it in 1848. That is why many parts of the city resemble Paris in terms of architecture and style. This is why we can find a beautiful cathedral, the “Notre Dame d’Afrique” and many other residential areas with a colorful combination of both French and Arabic designs.
8. Antananarivo – Madagascar
Antananarivo or Tana for short is the capital city to the largest island nation in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar. It is now home to over 1.4 million people and was built around the 1600s. Its name literally means “the city of a thousand”, in reference to the 1000 soldiers defending it in its early days, under the rule of King Andrianjaka.
In 1895, the French took the island over and greatly expanded the city, making it resemble its present day form. It is built on 12 steep hills and the best way to get around is either on foot or by taxi. Antananarivo is home to many beautiful monuments spread across these slopes and you need to be a really good hiker to truly visit it in just a couple of days. Nevertheless, if you are fond of sunsets and beautiful landscapes, Tana is the place for you. We would also like to give a special thanks to all the lemurs roaming around the city.
7. Djenne Djenno – Mali
Djenne Djenno is among the oldest cities in Africa. It was inhabited as far back as 250 BC and was an important link during the trans-Saharan gold trade. Archaeological evidence shows a continuous human population up until the 14th century, when the majority moved to the nearby town of Djenne.
What’s so interesting about this place is the way it is built. The central Mosque (pictured above) is the largest mud brick building in the world, as is the rest of the city. At the beginning of April, locals gather from the surrounding area and add a fresh layer of mud on the Mosque, otherwise it will surely crumble and fall. This unique style of building is native to Africa and many consider it to be “the typical African city” as it truly represents the African spirit before the arrival of other people from different continents.
6. Marrakech – Morroco
The word “Marrakech” is believed to come from the Berber language and it means “Land of God”. It is also believed that this name was chosen because of the city’s location between the Atlas Mountains and the desert, making it a perfect “pit-stop” for camel caravans to trade and refuel on supplies and water.
Djemma El Fna is an ancient square and market within the city center where all the locals gather, including many street performers such as: musicians, dancers, snake charmers and monkey trainers, as well as many food vendors. When visiting Marrakech, you have to keep in mind that these performers usually want money from you if you take their picture, so be ready for that. As a side note, Marrakech was Winston Churchill’s favorite city in Africa, visiting it several times after WWII.
5. Dakar – Senegal
Dakar is the capital city of Senegal and it’s situated at the coast, making it an important international trade route. It is located on top of Cape Verde, the westernmost point of the African continent. It was built in the 1400s and was used, alongside the neighboring Goree Island as a slave port by the Portuguese.
Today both Goree Island and the city itself are much more tourist friendly, being home to vibrant multicultural community of people and traditions. Some great touristic attractions are: the Grand Mosque, the Renaissance Monument, the Dakar Cathedral and the many markets where you can truly see the beauty this city has to offer.
4. Port Louis – Mauritius
Port Louis is the capital city of the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It was founded in 1735 by the French governor and colonist Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais and is situated on the north-west coast of the island.
As both the capital and business district of the country, Port Louis is very busy during the day, bustling with all sorts of people, but once evening sets in, friends gather in the city square or at the Caudan Waterfront for a night of party and relaxation. Tourists can see a beautiful mixture of the old and the new in Port Louis in both terms of architecture and traditions.
3. Cape Town – South Africa
Located near the tip of Africa’s most southern point, Cape Town is considered by South Africans as the “Mother Town” of the nation. Built by the Dutch “East India Company” in 1652, this port city soon became an important hub in world trade, connecting Europe and the Western World with the East.
The best time to visit this magnificent city is in winter, depending on where you’re from, from December to February and tourists can experience some of the best things Africa has to offer in terms of culture and sights.
2. Zanzibar City – Tanzania
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania and is comprised of the Zanzibar Archipelago some 25 miles of the coast of east Africa in the Indian Ocean. From among these islands, Unguja and Pemba are the largest and on Unguja is Zanzibar City, the capital city of this region.
These islands and the city itself are the most tourist friendly sites in all of Tanzania. They rely mostly on the trade of spices such as: cloves, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg which are of the highest quality here. The multitude of pristine beaches and coral reefs, make for a highly pleasurable experience, not to mention the many astonishing sights and animals found on these islands.
The “Stone Town” within the city is a historical heritage site combining many different styles of architecture from all different corners of the world. Cars rarely fit through its narrow streets, where you can find a multitude of shops and bazaars. Once, this town was an important slave trade link, connecting central Africa with the Middle East. It acted as Dakar did in the West.
1. Nairobi – Kenya
Also called “The green city in the sun”, Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya with a total population of 3 million people and is located near the base of the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro and the largest lake, Lake Victoria.
Right at the edge of the city, the “Nairobi National Park” is home to many wild animals native to Africa, such as: giraffes, wildebeest, lions, buffalo, rhino, zebras and cheetahs. The National Museum is also a must see, especially for those interested in local history and culture.