Monuments and Landmarks in Africa
The 92-meters tall concrete monument was opened in 1982 on the 20th anniversary of Algeria's hard-won independence. It's shaped like three standing palm leaves with an "eternal" flame in the center. Guards armed with whistles are constantly preventing people to get too close to the flame. Since the monument overlooks the city, the best way to get up here is by cable car. The square at the front is a popular gathering spot for both teenagers and families, also at night when the monument gets lit in different colours. Below the monument is the Martyr museum, which gives an insight into Algeria's brutal and bloody war for independence, including a gruesome exhibition with mannequins about torture.
Like Rio de Janeiro, Lubango also has a statue of Christ overlooking the city. Lubango's version was built in 1957 out of marble and is the exact same height (with pedestal) as the one in Rio de Janeiro (without the pedestal), namely 30 m high. Next to the statue stands another landmark clone, a huge Lubango sign strongly insprired by the one in Hollywood. However, what are truly unique up here are the Himba tribe ladies, who normally sits in the shade ready to posh for some kwanzas. Agree on the price before snapping away.
Agostinho Neto was the father of modern Angola. He lead Angola to independence in 1974 and was the first president. He died in 1979 and was (as the socialist norm dictacted at the time) enbalmed and put on show in an open casket. However after years of not proper care, it was necessary to put Neto's corpse into a closed casket, where he rest to this day. You can still see the casket today inside his massive mausoleum, which is shaped like a rose upside down. You can't miss the mausoleum has it takes up a huge chunk of prime real estate at the waterfront.
The memorial arch of Door of No Return stands at the beach four kilometres from the old slave town of Ouidah. According to some sources, millions of people from other tribes were captured by the Ouidah troops and sold off to the Arabs and later Europeans. The slaves was marched from Ouidah town to the waiting slave ships anchored off the beach. Here the slaves first have to survive the horrendous sea journey before they reached their equal horrible destiny somewhere in the colonised New World. Today, there are several other monuments along the sandy road from Ouidah to the beach, but nothing as big as the Door of No Return.
Vast empty plots of land, only broken by the odd designer mansion. Ouaga 2000 is where the upper class of Burkinabé society come to built their houses. So did the president and the wide boulevard from his enormous palace seems to have been constructed with primarily his motorcade in mind. While it does feel very unfinished – and probably always will – Ouagadougou's futuristic neighbourhood is an interesting visit. Besides the presidential palace and the odd buildings, the main sight of interest is the 55 m high Monument des Héros Nationaux which is clearly designed to be a museum, but serves mainly as a lookout over the strange neighbourhood.
The biggest Catholic church in the world isn't the Basilica of St Peter in the Vatican, it's surprisingly the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro in Côte d'Ivoire. Completed in 1990 and standing 158 metres tall, it's 22 metres higher than St Peter's. This massive piece of work is wholly unexpected and the "Basilica of the Bush" is, not surprising, the most visited tourist attraction in the country. It's probably also one of the most prominent tourist sights in all of West Africa, even through the construction was highly controversial. The final cost has never been revealed, but guesses range from US$200 million to US$600 million with most suggestions being around US$300 million. This massive sum was spent while the country was in a recession and is said to have doubled the country’s foreign debt.
The Pyramids at Giza are surprising on so many levels. Besides their mind blowing size (Cheops is 146.5m in height) and age (4500 years old), the thing that surprises most visitors is how close to Cairo they actually are. They lie right on the outskirt of Giza, a suburb of Cairo. You could throw a rock at the Sphinx from one of the roof tops of the apartment buildings. Another surprise is how ordinary this surrounding neighbourhood is. You would think pyramid views were in high demand, but it seems the Egyptians don't care much. Then the number of pyramids surprise you, there are three big ones along with a number of smaller Queen pyramids in addition to the Sphinx statue. And yes, there is a Pizza Hut slash Kentucky Fried Chicken right in front of the Sphinx gate, but it's very small and low key.
For anyone with an engineering degree or a technical interest, the Akosombo Dam is a must. Finished in 1966, standing 114 metres tall, 660 metres long, and built with local material only, the hydroelectric dam is a technological masterpiece. Politically it's been more problematic as the construction of the dam created what was then the largest human-made lake in the world, resulting in the relocation of 80.000 people. Tours are available and explain both the history and the more technical details of the dam. They are arranged by the Tourist Information & Publicity Unit of the Volta River Authority and leave from their office in town rather than at the dam itself.
Because, where else in Africa can you find Greek style pillars? Well, we're just asking. Bolama, the former capital of Portuguese Guinea, has the finest colonial architecture on the Guinean coast – and probably also anywhere between Saint-Louis (Senegal) and Ghana's coastal forts. Though everything here is falling apart and overgrown. From the old Town Hall's Greek pillars, over the electricity towers to the warehouses on the port. The town has been suggested as Guinea-Bissau's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, but have yet to get the organisation's approval. Should the crumbling architecture fail to make a lasting impression friendly locals and the islands many small hamlets and hidden beaches more than make up for it.
Probably the most lovely spot in Rabat. The Chellah combines the ruins of a Roman village with an Islamic necropolis – all hidden from the hectic capital by high medieval walls. The result is an oasis in the city that feels both historical, tranquil and almost spiritual. Particular striking is the ruined mosque and the trees around it that are home to dozens of nesting storks. Parts of the Chellah also has a distinct park like feel to it, and both visitors and locals alike use the area for socialising and relaxation more than they use it as an archaeological site. Every year in September it also hosts a five-day jazz festival.