Call it the Motherland, Land of the Sahara, or Cradle of Civilization; Africa is all this and much more. The second-largest continent on Earth is a land of rich history, mesmerizing diversity, and extraordinary wonders. But what is Africa known for?
From ancient civilizations that thrived on its soil to diverse landscapes and remarkable wildlife, Africa occupies a special place in adventurers’ hearts. If you were looking for one reason to visit Africa, here’s a whole bunch of reasons to help you make up your mind.
Rich Cultural Heritage
Africa is known for its rich cultural diversity, with over 2,000 distinct ethnic groups and over 1,500 languages spoken. Each country within the continent has its unique customs, traditions, and practices.
It is a melting pot of vibrant cultures indeed.
Africa has been home to some of the world’s most ancient civilizations, such as Egypt and Ethiopia, which have significantly influenced human history.
The Egyptian civilization remains popular owing to its awe-inspiring pyramids, temples, and hieroglyphics.
Tribes and Natives
Among the many tribes that continue to inhabit Africa, the Zulu tribe in South Africa is the most popular and largest. Calling themselves the “People of Heaven,” the members of this tribe pose a strongly united front.
While they’re a modern tribe, they greatly honor their ancient cultural practices.
The Maasai Warriors of Tanzania and Kenya are among the older tribes that have become famous. Unlike most African tribes that have lost some traditions over time, the Maasai people honor and work hard to preserve their way of life.
Brightly colored robes and sharp spears are iconic of the men of Maasai.
African History and Civilizations
Africa has had its share of struggles, evident from its rich history of struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
With a history dating back thousands of years, it is widely recognized as the birthplace of humanity and contains numerous archaeological sites that provide insights into early human evolution.
Prominent figures like Nelson Mandela (an anti-apartheid activist) fought for freedom and equality in South Africa. Other internationally-recognized figures include Chinua Achebe (renowned author) and Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary-General).
Not to forget the field of science; Africa has produced brilliant minds like Albertina Sisulu, the Nobel laureate, and physicist, whose groundbreaking work paved the way for future generations of female scientists.
There’s also Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Prize winner known for environmental activism.
Ancient civilizations like the Kingdom of Aksum and the Mali Empire are historically significant. Many such cultures left behind impressive architectural wonders with historical sites such as the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Rift Valley.
Yet another African civilization that significantly left its mark was the Kingdom of Kush, along the Nile River. Renowned for its wealth, prosperity, and culture, the Kingdom of Kush has an impressive legacy of temples, pyramids, and artifacts that showcase its glory.
The continent is home to numerous historical sites apart from Egypt’s Giza pyramids and Ethiopia’s Lalibela rock-hewn churches. These landmarks showcase Africa’s rich history and architectural wonders.
The Great Zimbabwe ruins in sub-Saharan Africa are an architectural marvel bearing witness to the once-thriving civilization of the Shona people. With intricate stonework and imposing structures, it showcases the rich heritage and engineering skills of the African people.
Wildlife and Safaris
“Going on a safari” has become synonymous with Africa.
Africa is known for its diverse wildlife, including the “Big Five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros). Safaris and wildlife encounters are what majorly draw tourists from around the world to Africa.
In protected areas, you can witness these majestic animals in their natural habitats. The Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya are just a few of the many protected areas.
Another top safari destination, Kenya, has Lake Nakuru National Park, one of the greatest bird spectacles on earth. It’s the perfect place to gaze at the beautiful flamingos on the lake’s shores and click some brilliant postcard-worthy photographs.
Of course, Africa’s wildlife goes much beyond the Big Five. An incredible array of unique species include the African penguin, the mountain gorilla, and the cheetah (the fastest land animal on Earth).
With biodiversity like that of Africa, it’s all the more important for conservation efforts to protect these remarkable creatures for future generations.
Interesting fact: Africa is home to the world’s largest frog species – the Goliath Frog. It grows to a foot long and weighs up to 8 lbs (heavier than the average newborn).
The unrivaled natural beauty of Africa ranges from lush rainforests to vast savannas and mountains to beautiful beaches along the coastlines. Interestingly, despite being the world’s second-largest continent, Africa has the shortest coastline.
Visit the tiny island of Zanzibar to experience some of the best beaches. With white coral sand and clear azure waters, you can relax here after a safari or go snorkeling or diving.
The Sahara Desert in North Africa is the largest hot desert in the world. It’s so large that it covers an area larger than the United States and stretches across multiple countries. One can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and fascination at the sight of the golden dunes and barren landscapes.
The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania offers wildlife enthusiasts the perfect opportunity to witness the circle of life in its rawest form.
Yet another stunning sight is Africa’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border. With a height of 355 feet and a width of almost a mile, you will be captivated by its magnificence.
One of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each continent), Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, is Africa’s highest peak. This is a common destination for many adventurers who travel to Africa to climb this majestic mountain.
There’s also the serene Nile River in Egypt, considered one of the longest rivers in the world. It flows through northeastern Africa, sustaining numerous civilizations throughout history. Its historical significance dates back centuries as it played a crucial role in ancient Egyptian civilization.
Remember the Pride Lands in The Lion King? “Everything the light touches” seen from Pride Rock are parts of South Kenya and North Tanzania.
Whether you want to explore ancient locations or cosmopolitan cities, Africa has everything.
Morocco’s Marrakesh is a densely-packed medieval city dating back to the Berber Empire. While navigating the maze of alleys and the bustling markets, you can’t help but recall Disney’s Aladdin. Browsing the collection of intricate hand-woven rugs from the souks will make it difficult to shake the image of a flying magic carpet from your mind.
Remember to sip on some coffee and mint tea while you’re here.
A stark contrast is South Africa’s Cape Town, a modern cosmopolitan city boasting a rich history, cultural heritage, and a spectacular coastline.
This undeniably beautiful city is also home to one of the seven wonders of nature – Table Mountain. The historic buildings, industrial districts, and Dutch, Malay, and British-influenced architecture add to its appeal.
African cuisine is yet another remarkable aspect of its culture. It has diverse flavors and dishes influenced by local ingredients and traditional cooking methods.
Like the varying cultures, each region boasts unique flavors and cooking styles. With delicious cuisine, including dishes like injera and jollof rice, the continent’s culinary heritage delights the taste buds.
While Madagascar vanilla is much sought after, Africa also makes 70% of the world’s cocoa beans. Most of the world’s beans come from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.
Vibrant Music and Dance Traditions
Something about the beats of African music will have you dancing along (or tapping your feet, at least).
Music and dance are an integral part of African societies, serving as a means of celebration, storytelling, and communication.
Have you witnessed the energy of traditional African dance and the rhythm of African beats? It’s high-spirited and full of passion.
African music has significantly influenced genres worldwide, from traditional tribal rhythms to modern jazz, blue, reggae, hip-hop, and Afrobeat. Artists like Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, and Youssou N’Dour have gained international recognition.
Traditional dances like Samba (Brazil), Salsa (Cuba), or Hip-Hop (United States) have roots in African rhythms and movements.
Unique Art and Craftsmanship
The continent is known for its vibrant traditional art forms, including sculptures made from wood or stone carvings, intricate beadwork, colorful textiles like kente cloth from Ghana, and unique mask designs used in rituals or ceremonies.
These art forms reflect the deep spirituality and creativity of African communities.
Many artworks narrate tales of ancient folklore, historical events, and ancestral reverence.
Africa possesses abundant natural resources such as gold, diamonds, oil, and minerals like copper and uranium, making it a significant player in global trade markets.
About 95% of the world’s diamonds and 50% of the world’s gold comes from Africa.
Are You Ready to Discover Africa?
As Africa has so much to offer in terms of culture, wildlife, and landscapes, it can be difficult to pick any one destination for a visit. It’s impossible to cover everything in a single trip.
No matter how much you explore this amazing continent, there always remains much more to uncover; that makes it all the more special.
Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the fifth, Africa will capture your soul and have you eager to return for more.
Now that you know the answer to ‘What is Africa known for?’ don’t you want to start discovering?