7 Must Visit Heritage Sites in Kenya

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7 Must Visit Heritage Sites in Kenya

Date: Feb 1, 2023
Author: Collins.cidar 611 No Comments

Every traveler has a purpose for embarking on his or her journey, but mostly, the chief purpose is a quest for knowledge and experience. This knowledge and experience can be found in few places in the world which Kenya is among the top list. Kenya is a country in east Africa with strong diversity in culture and tradition, a home for wild wide animals and a country of great enthusiasms in its safari. The country is sighted as Africa’s most popular destination for tourism and site-discovery. In the sight of the craggy mountain to the grassy landscape, to the lust forest, stretch to the Indian ocean coastline of the beach and the wildlife safari experience. Kenya is a sweet place to behold, the Fort Jesus Mombasa, built by the Portuguese in the end of 16th century is a place with museum that display a great artifact from the time of Mombasa and one of the most visit place around the Mombasa, The Mountain Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa and its national park great wild animal to behold. The fact is that there too many sights to behold in Kenya and we’ve taking our time to prepare this list below for your great excitement any time you are on a visit to Kenya.

Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Fort Jesus, Mombasa/photographer:bilwander/Flickr

Built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century at the southern edge of the town of Mombasa, over a spur of coral rock, and kept under their control for one century, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, bears testimony to the first successful attempt by Western civilization to rule the Indian ocean trade routes, which, until then had remained under Eastern influence. The design of the fort, with its proportions, its imposing walls and five bastions, reflects the military architectural theory of the Renaissance. Fort Jesus, Mombasa, bears physical witness, in its structures and subsequent transformations, also to the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin that fought to gain and maintain their control over this strategic port.

Lamu Old Town

Lamu Old Town/Photographer:zug55/Flickr

Lamu Old Town, located on an island known by the same name on the coast of East Africa some 350km north of Mombasa, is the oldest and best preserved example of Swahili settlement in East Africa.

With a core comprising a collection of buildings on 16 ha, Lamu has maintained its social and cultural integrity, as well as retaining its authentic building fabric up to the present day. Once the most important trade centre in East Africa, Lamu has exercised an important influence in the entire region in religious, cultural as well as in technological expertise. A conservative and close-knit society, Lamu has retained its important status as a significant centre for education in Islamic and Swahili culture as illustrated by  the annual Maulidi and cultural festivals.

Unlike other Swahili settlements which have been abandoned along the East African coast, Lamu has continuously been inhabited for over 700 years.

The growth and decline of the seaports on the East African coast and interaction between the Bantu, Arabs, Persians, Indians, and Europeans represents a significant cultural and economic phase in the history of the region which finds its most outstanding expression in Lamu Old Town, its architecture and town planning.

The town is characterized by narrow streets and magnificent stone buildings with impressive curved doors, influenced by unique fusion of Swahili, Arabic, Persian, Indian and European building styles. The buildings on the seafront with their arcades and open verandas provide a unified visual impression of the town when approaching it from the sea. While the vernacular buildings are internally decorated with painted ceilings, large niches (madaka), small niches (zidaka), and pieces of Chinese porcelain. The buildings are well preserved and carry a long history that represents the development of Swahili building technology, based on coral, lime and mangrove poles.

The architecture and urban structure of Lamu graphically demonstrate the cultural influences that have come together over 700 hundred years from Europe, Arabia, and India, utilizing traditional Swahili techniques that produced a distinct culture. The property is characterized by its unique Swahili architecture that is defined by spatial organization and narrow winding streets. This labyrinth street pattern has its origins in Arab traditions of land distribution and urban development. It is also defined by clusters of dwellings divided into a number of small wards (mitaa) each being a group of buildings where a number of closely related lineages live.

Attributed by eminent Swahili researchers as the cradle of Swahili civilization,Lamu became an important religious centre in East and Central Africa since the 19th century, attracting scholars of Islamic religion and Swahili culture. Today it is a major reservoir of Swahili culture whose inhabitants have managed to sustain their traditional values as depicted by a sense of social unity and cohesion.

Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests

Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests/Photographer:Victor Ochieng/Flickr

Spread out along around 200km of the coast province of Kenya are ten separate forested sites, mostly on low hills, ranging in size from 30 to around 300 ha, in which are the remains of fortified villages, Kayas, of the Mijikenda people. They represent more than thirty surviving Kayas.

The Kayas began to fall out of use in the early 20th century and are now revered as the repositories of spiritual beliefs of the Mijikenda people and are seen as the sacred abode of their ancestors.

The forest around the Kayas have been nurtured by the Mijikenda community to protect the sacred graves and groves and are now almost the only remains of the once extensive coastal lowland forest.

Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site

Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site/Ephraim Mwangi
Copyright: © National Museums of Kenya/UNESCO

Located 46 km northwest of Migori Town in the Lake Victoria region, Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site is a dry-stone walled settlement, based on a complex organization system of communal occupation, craft industries and livestock that reflects a cultural tradition developed by pastoral communities in the Nyanza region of the Lake Victoria basin that persisted from 16th to mid-20th centuries.

Thimlich Ohinga is the largest and best preserved of these massive dry-stone walled enclosures. The Ohinga appear to have served primarily as security for communities and livestock, but they also defined social units and relationships linked to lineage based systems.

The property comprises four larger Ohingni, all of which have extensions. The main Ohinga is referred to as Kochieng, while the others are Kakuku, Koketch and Koluoch. The dry stone wall enclosures are constructed in a three-phase design with separately built up outer and inner phases, held together by the middle phase. Stones were placed in an interlocking system that enhanced overall stability without use of any mortar or cement. The walls are built of neatly arranged stones of various sizes and without mortar, ranging from 1.5 m to 4.5 m in height, with an average thickness of 1 m.

Thimlich Ohinga is an exceptional testimony of settlement patterns and spatial community relations in the Lake Victoria Basin, which documents the successive occupation by different people from various linguistic origins during an important episode in the migration and settlement of the Lake Victoria Basin between the 16th and 17th centuries. It also gives reference to habitation patterns, livestock cultivation and craft practices prevalent in communal settlements at this time.

Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley

Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley/Photographer: BIOPAMA/Flickr

The Kenya Lake System is composed of three alkaline lakes and their surrounding territories: Lake Bogoria, 10,700 ha; Lake Nakuru, 18,800 ha; and Lake Elementaita, 2,534 ha. These lakes are found on the floor of the Great Rift Valley where major tectonic and/or volcanic events have shaped a distinctive landscape. Some of the world’s greatest diversities and concentrations of bird species are recorded within these relatively small lake systems. For most of the year, up to 4 million Lesser Flamingos move between the three shallow lakes in an outstanding wildlife spectacle. Surrounded by hot springs, geysers and the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley with its volcanic outcrops, the natural setting of the lakes provides an exceptional experience of nature.

Lake Turkana National Parks

Lake Turkana National Parks/photographer: gigema/Flickr

Lake Turkana National Parks are constituted of Sibiloi National Park, the South Island and the Central Island National Parks, covering a total area of 161,485 hectares located within the Lake Turkana basin whose total surface area is 7 million ha. The Lake is the most saline lake in East Africa and the largest desert lake in the world, surrounded by an arid, seemingly extraterrestrial landscape that is often devoid of life. The long body of Lake Turkana drops down along the Rift Valley from the Ethiopian border, extending 249 kilometers from north to south and 44 km at its widest point with a depth of 30 meters. It is Africa’s fourth largest lake, fondly called the Jade Sea because of its breathtaking color.

The property represents unique geo-morphological features with fossil deposits on sedimentary formations as well as one hundred identified archaeological and paleontological sites. There are numerous volcanic overflows with petrified forests. The existing ecological conditions provide habitats for maintaining diverse flora and fauna.

At Kobi Fora to the north of Allia Bay, extensive paleontological finds have been made, starting in 1969, with the discovery of Paranthropus boisei. The discovery of Homo habilis thereafter is evidence of the existence of a relatively intelligent hominid two million years ago and reflect the change in climate from moist forest grassland when the now petrified forest were growing to the present hot desert. The human and pre-human fossils include the remains of five species, Austrolophithecus anamensis, Homo habilis/rudolfensis, Paranthropus boisei, Homo erectus and Homo sapiens all found within one locality. These discoveries are important for understanding the evolutionary history of the human species.

The island parks are the breeding habitats of the Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloticus, the hippopotamus amphibious and several snake species. The lake is an important flyway passage and stopover for palaeartic migrant birds.

Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest

Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest/Photographer:Global Environment Facility/Flickr

Mount Kenya straddles the equator about 193 km north-east of Nairobi and about 480 km from the Kenyan coast. At 5,199 m, Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa and is an ancient extinct volcano. There are 12 remnant glaciers on the mountain, all receding rapidly, and four secondary peaks that sit at the head of the U-shaped glacial valleys. With its rugged glacier-clad summits and forested middle slopes, Mount Kenya is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa. The evolution and ecology of its afro-alpine flora also provide an outstanding example of ecological processes.

The property includes the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve (LWC-NNFR) to the north. The two component parts of the property are connected via a wildlife corridor which is part of the buffer zone for the property, and which provides vital connectivity for elephants moving between Mount Kenya and the larger conservation complex of the Somali/Maasai ecosystem. The LWC-NNFR extension incorporates the forested foothills and steep valleys of the lower slopes of Mount Kenya and extends northwards onto the relatively flat, arid, volcanic soils supporting grassland and open woodland communities on the Laikipia plain.

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