This year, the UNESCO World Heritage List includes 19 new sites around the world with “outstanding universal value” to the common heritage of human civilization. The famed list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization now contains 981 sites distributed in a total of 160 countries. These sites, natural features, buildings, and monuments are protected and preserved for future generations. They are also provided with funding and support for management and maintenance.
This year, two singular sites located in the exotic, wild, and often harsh continent of Africa has been granted World Heritage status.
Of the 19 new UNESCO World Heritage Sites approved by the Committee at Phnom Penh, Cambodia this year, two are from the African continent: the Namib Sand Sea, a natural desert environment in Namibia in Southern Africa and the Historic Centre of Agadez, a cultural landmark in Niger in Western Africa.
The extraordinary Namib Sand Sea is located within the Namib-Naukluft Park. The three-million hectare extent of the Namib Sand Sea is unique. This stretch of African desert is the only coastal desert of stunning shifting sand dunes that are greatly influenced by fog, the area’s main water source. This beautiful and timeless desert has two primary dune systems – one younger and one more ancient. The Namib Sand Sea’s singular environment supports a large diversity of life including numerous endemic species of mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. The endemic fauna and flora are interesting and invaluable testaments to how plants and animals have evolved to adapt to extreme weather and environmental conditions.
The largest city in Northern Niger, Agadez is a historic city with a population of around 89,000. It is located in the South Saharan Desert and is the capital of Aïr, a Tuareg-Berber federation. The city was founded during the reign of the Sultanate of Aïr in the 15th and 16th centuries. The city was very important in the caravan trade. Until this day, Agadez still contains religious and palatial structures that have been preserved intact for hundreds of years. One of the key landmarks is the highest mud structure in the world – a 27-meter mud brick minaret. The city is known for its sophisticated earthen (mud brick) architecture and the original street plan that remains to this day.
Enduring African treasures
In Africa the countries with World Heritage status are:
There are 129 sites in Africa with World Heritage Status distributed in the countries listed above. The most number of sites are found in Ethiopia, which has nine. The African continent boasts of cultural (83), natural (41) and mixes (5) sites, with a few sites shared by two countries. The UNESCO is facilitating the provision of funding for the management and preservation of these sites through a fund.