Kenya’s 7 world heritage sites

Kenya’s 7 world heritage sites : Kenya is known to be the home of the famously known big five game animals, it is also famous for its spectacular beauty and offers the first class wild safari experience of a lifetime.  On top of that the Kenya also hols seven UNESCO World Heritage Site making it the second African country after South Africa which has ten listed sites. For a country to be listed among the world’s heritage site it has to be ratified to a number of conventions ,then follow mandatory guidelines therein . State parties agree to identify and nominate properties on their national territory to be considered for inscription on the world heritage list. The properties to be identified by state parties must have outstanding Universal, cultural, historical, natural and archaeological value. Kenya has ratified herself to two World Heritage conventions ;The 1972 Convention of the protection of the World cultural and National Heritage and the 2003 convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural Heritage. The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is the body responsible in ratifying the  country to these conventions and managing the seven sites.

The seven world heritages in Kenya are:

1:Lake Turkana National parks

Lake Turkana National parks consist of Sibiloi National Park, the South National Park and Central Island National Park covering a total area of 161,485 hectares all located within the Lake Turkana basin whose total surface is 7 million hectares. The lake is the largest desert lake in the world, surrounded by an arid land which is barely a desert of bare land.

The  Lake Turkana drops down along the Ethiopian border extending 249 kilometres from North to South and 44  kilometres at its widest point with an average depth of 30 meters. It is Africa’s fourth largest lake ,it is also fondly referred to as jade sea because of its breath-taking colour.

There is also the Koobi Fora paleontological site where there are discovery of human evolution. The discovery of Homo habilis is the evidence of existence of relatively intelligent hominid two million years ago and reflects the change in climate from moist forest grasslands to the present hot desert.  These and many more discoveries have been made by National Museums of Kenya researchers in partnership with other external parties. National Museums of Kenya today house all the research collections.

2: Mount Kenya National Park and Forest

The highest mountain in kenya and the second highest mountain in Africa is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa. It is characterized by rugged glacier- clad summits and the forested middle slopes. The National park and the Forest areas surrounding the mountain were established in 1949 and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and Ireland is under the joint management of Kenya wildlife service and the National Museums of Kenya. The main aim of it is to protect Mount Kenya, along with its wildlife and environment. The natural environment is very important  as a natural habitat for the animal species that inhabit the area. It is also a very important water catchment area that provides water to most parts of Nairobi and its environs and it is UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Kenya’s 7 world heritage sites
Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya straddles the Equator about 193 kilometres North East of Nairobi and about 480 kilometres from the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa.  It is a extinct volcano, it also lies within the traditional migration route of the African Elephant population.

3: Lamu Old Town

Lamu old Town is one of the uniquely kept heritages and one of the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa maintaining its traditional functions. This structures which were built using coral stone and mangrove timber materials the town is defined by the simple of structures. The Lamu Old town include some of its unique features such as its inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors.  Lamu town is popular among the Muslims and it has hosted major Muslim religious festivals since way back in the 19th century and it has played a important role as a  centre for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. Lamu Old Town was gazetted on 20th June 1986 and was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

The town known and unique for its narrow streets and alleys that only allow movements by foot and donkey. Lamu Old Town architecture was influenced by a fusion of Swahili, Arabic ,Persians, Indians and European building styles.

Lamu Town has been continuously been inhabited for over 700 years, making it different from other swahili settlements in the East African coast which have been abandoned. In the 12th century the town had established itself as an important trading centre in the Islamic coast of East Africa.  The town has successfully retained their traditional values which is evident in their sense of unity and cohesion.

Lamu has several historic sites including the German Post Office, the Lamu Museum and the Lamu Fort.

4:The Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests

It consists of eleven separate forested sites, which are spread over 200 kilometres along the coast. They contain the remains of numerous well kept villages, known as Kayas of the Mijikenda people. The Kayas were made in the 16th century but abandoned by the 1940s are now regarded as the abodes of the ancestors which are referred to as sacred sites and are maintained by the councils of elders. The sites were inscribed to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008. The Coastal Forest Conservation unit was constituted by National Museums of Kenya to oversee the conservation effort of these Sacred forests.

The Kayas are spread along around 200km of the coastal region of Kenya with ten separate forested sites mostly in low hills ranging from 30 to around 300 hectares in which the remains of fortified villages, Kayas of the Mijikenda people. They represent more than thirty surviving Kayas.

The Kayas stopped from being used in the early 20th century. They are now referred to as the repositories of spiritual beliefs of the Mijikenda people and 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.

5:The Kenya Lake system in the Great Rift Valley

The Kenya Lake system in the Great Rift Valley was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.It is a nature’s outstanding beauty which is made up of three inter-linked and relatively shallow lakes. They are Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita which covers a total area of 32,034 hectares. It has the world’s greatest diversity concentration of bird species recorded within these small Lake systems. They are jointly managed by Kenya wildlife service and the National Museums of Kenya.

The lakes have large mammals and it one of the most recognised as a valuable place for the study of ecological processes of major importance. One can also spot black rhinos, Rothschild’s giraffes, Greater kudus, lions, cheetahs and wild dogs and many more.

For better part of the year up to 4 million lesser flamingos move between the three shallow lakes. The lakes are habitat to 13 globally threatened species of birds and some of the highest bird diversities in the world. It is a major nesting and breeding grounds for great white pelicans.

6: Fort Jesus, Mombasa

This is architectural masterpiece built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century. It is located at the southern end of Mombasa, over a Spur of Coral Rock. It was kept under the control of Portuguese for one century and it is the testimony of the western civilization trying to rule the Indian Ocean trade routes which until then had remained under the Eastern influence. The historical site was gazetted on 26th June 1970 and listed on the UNESCO world heritage site in 2011.

It was built by the Portuguese in 1593- 1596 with Giovanni Batissta Cairati design with its purpose was to protecting the port of Mombasa. It is one of the most outstanding and well-preserved examples of 16th century Portuguese military fortifications and a landmark in the history of this type of construction. The property covers 2.34 hectares and includes the fort’s moat and immediate surroundings. Fort Jesus bears physical witness in its structures and subsequent transformations and the interchange of cultural values between Africans, Arabs, Turkish, Persians and European who fought to gain and maintain the control over this strategic port.

Inside Fort Jesus Museums holds objects from archaeological excavations at Fort Jesus, Gede, Manda and Ungwana.

7: Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site

Thimlich Ohinga cultural site was gazetted as a National Monument on 4th June 1982 and was added to the UNESCO world heritage site in 2018. The name refers to a Frightening dense forest in Dholuo language inhabitants of the region.

The stone structure enclosure has walls ranging from 1.0 to 4.2metres in height which were built of loose stones and blocks without any dressing or motor. Archaeological records of materials found within the site go beyond 500 years ago. It is believed that the Bantus who initially occupied the region prior to the arrival of luos, first built the stone structures. The rocks in the hilly areas provided then with building materials to meet their security requirements.

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